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  • Shreveport Criminal Justice Associate's Degree Students in the Courtroom During Murder Trial at Caddo Parish District Courthouse

    Criminal Justice students in Shreveport got an up-close look at a high-profile capital murder case by being in the courtroom for a critical week during the trial of recently convicted serial killer Eric Mickelson. Mickelson was accused of burglarizing, robbing, brutally murdering, and dismembering an 86-year-old World War II veteran in 2007. It is also believed that Mickelson was involved in six other deaths across the Ark-La-Tex region.

    On Saturday, August 6, 2011, Mickelson was found guilty by a jury of his peers. After less than one hour of deliberation, the jury recommended he receive the death penalty.

    The 62 Shreveport Criminal Justice associate's degree students who attended the trial witnessed first-hand:

    • How the federal and Louisiana court system functions.
    • Courtroom demeanor among the judge, prosecution, defense, witnesses, and jury members.
    • The process for admitting evidence into trial through direct and indirect examination and cross-examination.

    Shreveport Criminal Justice Department Chair Mara Elliott said, "The opportunity to observe a capital murder trial was golden for the students and truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance."

    Instructors Mike McConnell, Mark Rogers, Randal Serrette, Ricky Melancon, Horace Spratley, and Mara Elliott accompanied different groups of students to the Caddo Parish District Courthouse each day from August 2 through August 5 to attend the trial. Our students were in attendance while the prosecution and defense argued the case and during the sentencing phase and closing arguments.

    This field trip was particularly relevant to our Shreveport College students because two of the Shreveport police officers who worked the case are twin brothers, both affiliated with Remington College.

    Assigned to the case and responsible for collecting the dismembered body parts of the victim was Investigating Officer Mike McConnell, a full-time Criminal Justice instructor at the Shreveport Campus, who also coordinated the field trips to the courthouse.

    Mike's twin brother, Detective Patrick McConnell, was the arresting officer, interrogated Mickelson, and is responsible for getting Mickelson's confession. Patrick McConnell was a Criminal Justice instructor at the Shreveport Campus until May 2011.

    Shreveport Criminal Justice Degree Students React to the Trial

    Here are some reactions from students and instructors about how it felt to have a front-row seat at a first-degree murder trial:

    "Sitting in on a real murder trial was so different from what I've seen on TV. I really felt sorry for the victim, since his situation hit home with me because I come from a military family. I also empathized for the family members and felt awful seeing them cry while watching the evidence and gruesome photos presented to the jury. I definitely have a better appreciation for the justice system and the victims of crime. Remington College has been great so far, and to have the opportunity to sit in on a real trial first-hand gives me the experience and preparation to know what to expect when I'm in the field." - Criminal Justice Associate's Degree Student Rhonda Aglar

    "If I weren't attending Remington College, I wouldn't have been able to be in the courtroom to see this high-profile case and gain exposure to the different types of people I may be faced with when I'm in the field. Gaining this first-hand knowledge has given me additional confidence as I prepare to step into the field." - Criminal Justice Associate's Degree Student Vicki Jordan

    "The trial opened my eyes to the real world, and the field trip to the courtroom will certainly help me in my criminal justice classes. I liked the hands-on approach taken by the lawyers and how the courtroom was organized yet busy (almost to the point of confusion) at the same time. I also enjoyed watching the professionals and was surprised to see that the defense had some strong points, the expert witness presumed facts, and the same witness tried to persuade the jury to believe something other than murder as a cause of death. I kept a close eye on the jury and watched their body language. It seemed that they were experiencing the same emotions as I was. I've attended other universities, and it was all paperwork and bookwork. Remington College's Criminal Justice program is more hands-on, has a better outlook, and I look forward to coming to class. This was my first field trip, and it was extremely exciting." - Criminal Justice Associate's Degree Student Demetric Clarkson

    "It's not often that we, as homicide detectives, come across serial killers. I truly believe Eric Mickelson knows the difference between right and wrong, which was evident when he attempted to cover up evidence of his crime. In my opinion, this indicates that Mickelson is not insane, but rather is a psychopath. I knew the jury would reach the same conclusion." - Remington College Criminal Justice Instructor and Detective Mike McConnell