Tuesday, August 5, 2008

US District Court - Southern District of New York

Hayley Tozeski writes from New York:

It’s Monday morning in early June, 9:30-ish a.m., and the beginning of my third week as a judicial intern in the Southern District of New York. Scores of potential jurors fill Courtroom 12B, each hoping to dodge the bullet in what is expected to be a two-week-plus criminal trial. Interns from the United States Attorney’s Office line the walls and anteroom; the gallery is standing room only. On trial are four friends from the Bronx, alleged to have conspired to commit murder in furtherance of a larger narcotics conspiracy. Until earlier this spring, two of the twenty-something-year-old men faced the death penalty.

Over the next few weeks, the story of the victim’s murder played out like the television drama our professors promised we would never see: bales of marijuana and pistols passed from prosecutors to witnesses to jurors; co-conspirators and former associates flipped on one-time friends; a surprise defense witness provided graphic testimony about a purportedly related sexual assault; a defendant threatened to assault the Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting the case; and extensive forensics testimony tied the loose ends. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After several days of deliberation, the jury convicted on all counts.

I have had the good fortune of observing not one, not two, but three criminal trials this summer. This means that along with researching and drafting memorandums on Daubert, Title VII, sovereign immunity, jurisdiction and venue, and pleading standards under the PSLRA and the federal in forma pauperis statute, I have observed nine opening statements, nine summations, the examination and cross-examination of almost 50 witnesses, and, most importantly, my Judge’s and clerks’ reactions and observations every step of the way. Forget class, I have seen criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, and trial advocacy in the flesh.

I made a decision early during my first year to take on a summer internship that would enhance both my skill-based and substantive knowledge of the law. My judicial internship has done just that, and, in addition, has imparted a greater familiarity with litigation and trial practice. I am incredibly appreciative of the Equal Justice Foundation’s support, without which I would have been unable to accept this position. I look forward to making similar experiences possible for the Class of 2011.

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