Study abroad trip to France highlights true crimes and trials

UNT students and University of Rennes 2 students studied together during a study abroad course in November in Rennes, France.

Guided by criminal justice professor Peter Johnstone, seven UNT students spent a week in November visiting Rennes, France, on a study abroad trip to experience firsthand the city's history of crime and punishment. Rennes, the third largest city in France and seat of government for the Brittany province, has been home to sites of crime and punishment since the 13th century.

Trip highlights included site tours of pillories, executions and crime scenes and a visit to the Tournelle criminal court, created in 1575 and currently located with the Parliament of Brittany buildings. Students also toured former courts, medieval churches and former monasteries, where accused criminals were housed before the Tournelle was created.

"I wanted to experience how those in a different country approach a murder and to learn how much forensic science has advanced and how much criminal procedure has changed," says Lenette Rubio ('16), who earned a criminal justice degree in December and aspires to become a criminal defense attorney.

Judah Mangrum, a senior criminal justice major, says the Rennes trip was an opportunity to travel overseas for the first time and compare the U.S. law enforcement system with the system in France.

"While the U.S. system is influenced by the French system, French juries function with either one or multiple judges," he says.

The trip is part of Johnstone's Criminal Justice 4860 special topics course, and students attended lectures at the University of Rennes 2.

"Travel is the very best way for people to understand each other, even if they already speak the same language," says Johnstone.

He will take another group of students to Rennes and to London March 11-20.

By Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions. First published in The North Texan.