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Internship Journal Mercer County Prosecutor's Office May 20, 2008 Today was my first day at the Prosecutor’s Office. For the first part of the morning I received a tour of the courthouse. The rest of the morning I spent time with one of the Prosecuting Attorney’s, Shawn. He deals with a lot of forfeiture cases and Drug Court. Mercer County has a great program for first offenders, non-violent, non-criminal history, drug users who have been arrested. Instead of facing serious time in jail or prison the county gives them the opportunity to go through rehabilitation and probation. This is really great for people who need help “getting clean.” On the other hand for those users who have no desire to “get clean” and “stay clean” this is not such a wonderful program and for those most people opt out of the probation and rehabilitation and take the jail time. The program requires around 18 months of rehabilitation and another year of probation, where the individual most come down to the courthouse once a week to give a urine sample. From Drug Court I moved on to Indictment Court. This is a very fast passed process, when the judicial system is in full swing. Most of the time we were waiting for the defendant to arrive or for the defendant’s attorney to arrive. What I found most interesting about this Court is how the Prosecuting Attorney most works on the fly. Most of the information they receive, also known as a discovery, is given to them moments before the Judge announces the case in front of the court. In the afternoon I spent my time working on the Mercer 51 Open Complaints by units. Which are divided up into many divisions some included are Arson, Gang Unit, Grand Jury, Sexual Assault, and many others. This shows the number of cases the Prosecutor’s Office has open and the courthouse or the county determines this number. My job is to reconcile the Mercer 51 number (the number the courthouse or the county determines) and compare it to how many we actually have open. Then I have to determine how many are backlogged. This means how many cases have been open more than 60 days. Then the numbers are totaled. This is a weekly duty for me. Overall the first day was overwhelming meeting everyone and getting use to a new place. But I really enjoy what I am doing and the people I work with. I truly believe this is going to be a great internship filled with great experiences and an abundance of knowledge. May 21, 2008 I have arrived about three earlier then the rest of the interns so I am I helping to prepare for their arrival. To do so I have been doing some basic copying and organized a few binders with information. The other interns will arrive on Tuesday May 27, 2008.Today I have spent most of the morning working on a legal brief. I done a lot of legal briefs in my Law & Economics class last semester but as most people will tell you the real world is very different from the classroom. The structure is quite different from what I am use to but I am a quick leaner and hopefully I will pick it up swiftly. I believe my supervising attorney is going to take a look at it tomorrow. I am looking forward to the constructive criticism to see if I really gained some useful knowledge in my class, which can be applied in the real world. In the afternoon I have worked on an Alpha Order Case Destruction List. I believe this will be a daily task for me. Mercer County Prosecutor's Office pays a large sum of money each year to store their files. The hope for them is to try and destroy records, which are not needed anymore, but they need to keep some of the information. The basic information on this sheet is name, date of birth, social security number, file number, charges, disposition, disposition date, eligible destruction date, and rsn. It seems throughout the course of the internship I will be the lead and contact on this project for the interns. I have really enjoyed doing the Case Destruction List. It is very interesting to travel into the past and revisit cases that have been closed for years. It has been brought to my attention there are some files, which may never be destroyed, some of these files include homicide and rape. But it is up to the PA and the legal interns to determine those codes. May 22, 2008 Today I went to the detective offices on Lamberton Street. This is a great facility for the detectives, the victims, and the family of the victims. This is a recent facility for the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office but I really believe it will benefit them and the community. I was able to sit in on a meeting about evidence. It seems the municipalities have a problem with storage space for there evidence. This was an informational meeting given by Assistance Prosecuting Attorney, Angelo Onofri and the chief of police. The information presented gave guidelines on when, where, and how to destroy evidence. This delegation of information came from the Attorney General. The rest of the day was spent on the Case Destruction List. May 27, 2008 Today was a very action packed day. The rest of the interns started today and we had our orientation. We were given our summer assignments and placed in our our units. My unit is specifically interning for the Administrative Prosecutors. We were given basic instructions on how to brief a case. We were given examples as a guideline to follow. Each intern will be expected to brief cases. We then met Judge Council. This was a very informal meeting on what Judge Council does and how he has contributed to the Mercer County Judicial system. Judge Council is called “The Doer.” He is known for coming into a county and turning things around. He is not afraid to get in there and get what needs to be done, done. After meeting Judge Council I ended the day with updated the Administrative Assistance Prosecutor’s intern contact information. May 28, 2008 Most of the day was spent doing the case destruction project. I also helped some of the other interns get set up with computers. I did also do a little work on a downgrade file. May 29, 2008 This morning I have been working on the case destruction project but I am headed to the ER because I believe I broke my foot. As I was walking out of the house this morning, I slipped and fell. May 30, 2008 I did fracture my right foot. So I was given yesterday afternoon off to rest and keep ice on my foot. Today I am back to work, doing fine. I am working on down grade files. Our office also helps to sponsor a golf tournament to raise money for local kids to go to a camp. This tournament is coming up very soon. I went to a breakfast meeting to help determine what needed to be done and who we had to sponsor the tournament. The rest of the day I will be working on the case destruction project and helping to organizing the golf tournament. June 2, 2008 Today was spent working on the case destruction process. I taught some of the other interns how the project works and how to use the spreadsheet. This is a great project and I love to see justice in action. Some of the cases were hard to handle. I remember one where there was a child murdered and that was hard to handle but the DA’s office fought for the child and justice prevailed. The project is going great. June 3, 2008 Today I am working on the case destruction project. I am also writing a letter to The General Council. I was also informed the other day that a write up I did on was going to be put in the office’s newsletter. Things seem to be going well. I have been told that I am too wordy with my write-ups and this is something I need to work on. June 4, 2008 This morning I went to Bail Court. Judge Council presided over the court. The defendants are kept about 25 miles away from the criminal court house and to cut down on the cost, the defendants appear on TV. The defendant can also hear and see everything that is taking place in the courtroom. June 5, 2008 Today I had my county physical and drug test. The county doctor seemed to be concerned with my seizure d/o but once I explained to him my seizure were under control with medication and I see a neurologist regularly he seemed to be a little more comfortable with my situation. I passed the physical and drug test just fine. From there I went to receive my I.D. and set up my direct deposit. I only worked a half day today because this afternoon I am heading home to Indiana to have my foot looked at. June 16, 2008 This morning I spent about an hour in Bail court. I learned how the District Attorney’s office determines when to ask the judge to set, increase, or keep bail the same for a particular defendant. Most of the time this is based on certain guidelines but it mostly depends on the defendants record. The rest of the day I worked on the Mercer 51 Report, a legal brief, and a downgrade file. The office seems calm today but in July we have a few large trials, which should prove to be pretty interesting. June 17, 2008 This morning I went to Bail court. It was more interesting then normal. One of my favorite prosecuting attorney’s was doing bails today. He presents the cases in a very interesting way and lightens the mood a little. There were quite a few defendants who had bench warrants issued and when the judge gave them a chance to explain why they did not appear for there court date, the majority of the responses were, “I never received the notice of my court date.” Mike, the prosecuting attorney began to get perturbed with this response and was not going to accept it as an excuse any longer. When it was his turn to speak to the judge he stated, “the probation program had either become incompetent or New Jersey has a serious problem with their postal system.” I found this to be a very witty comment. Bail court tends to be tedious. The rest of the day was spent working on copying, making some phone calls, and doing some miscellaneous work for everyone in the office. June 18, 2008 Today I worked on a filing project and typed a few letters. The county receives Grant funding in order to fund a majority of their services. In order for these grants to be approved the prosecutor’s office has to put together an extensive contract. Which includes documents and other items. The contract and all of the All parties involved must approve other fine details. I have been working on a grant that was not approved and was sent back to our office. There is a lot of red tape that goes along with receiving these grants but they are very important to the county. I also spent the afternoon on the Mercer 51 report. June 19, 2008 This morning I finished the Mercer 51 report I started yesterday. Then I went to a trial. It was State v. Clark. This has been a very interesting case and an amazing experience. The state is trying to charge the defendant with possession of a dangerous weapon. The defendant has a prior felony conviction and as such cannot posses any weapon of any kind. This weapon (semi-automatic hand gun) was retrieved during a search warrant. The defense claims the handgun did not belong to the defendant. It belonged to a friend who had an emergency and stored the handgun and ammunition in the defendant’s home. Today I heard opening arguments, questioning, and cross-examination. The court is in recess tell tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. June 20, 2008 Today the defendant in the trial I have been attending took the stand. It took about twenty minutes for his questioning and cross-examination. The defense had no more witnesses and the prosecution rested their case. Then we moved on to closing arguments. The closing arguments by both attorney was very interesting and engaging but the prosecution painted a better picture to the jury. He gave three points as to why and how the defense possessed the weapon in question. After closing arguments the judge gave the jury definitions of the law and their duties and responsibilities as jurors. Within an hour the jury came back with a verdict, they convicted the defendant. The rest of the day I spent working on a power point for my supervisor. He is teaching a class to the correction officers regarding assault on Monday. June 23, 2008 This morning I went to Mercer County Community College. My supervisor, Angelo taught a class about assault. The was given for future Correction Officers. It was a very informative class. When I came back to the office I finished working on a grant request. Then I did a memo to a detective regarding serious collision cases. Around 2:30 p.m. I went to Judge Kelly’s courtroom for a trial. When I walked in there was a private attorney being questioned about his dealings with the defendant. As far as I understand it the defendant was under age when she assisted in a murder. She was convicted and sent to prison but she wanted her attorney to appeal her sentence and this is why is in court today. Judge Kelly dismissed the case and remanded back to the municipal court. The defense attorney was not on the good side of Judge Kelly. She did not have proper court educates but that is not why he dismissed the case. There was not enough evidence to prove the private attorney purposely did not file an appeal of the sentence for the defendant. June 24, 2008 Today I am working on a Resolution. This is a part of the grant. This has to deal with contracts and requesting money to add on to the Mercer County Fire Range in Hopewell. This afternoon I am headed to another trial. June 25, 2008 This morning we received more boxes from archives. So, I helped the legal interns with their portion of the Case Destruction Project. Then I spent the rest of the day working on the Case Destruction Project. June 26, 2008 This morning I went to a sex assault trial. The plaintiff in the case was a fourteen year old girl. I did not stay long because it was hard for the girl to testify while there were so many people in the courtroom. During the morning break the prosecutor asked myself and other interns to step out while the victim testified. By the time the cross-examination was complete, the Judge allowed the jury to break for lunch. When the trial commenced in the afternoon it was time for closing arguments. It was very interesting how each side tried to paint the picture of the events. The defense tried to portray the victim as someone who had experience with sex and sexual activity. The prosecution tried to explain to the jury that they might be the case but it was not right for the defendant to do what he did to her. The jury was dismissed for the day. The rest of the day I spent working on a resolution for the grant proposal. June 27, 2008 This morning the Judge gave the jury charge. The jury charge is the instructions or explanation of the law the jury is to use in determining the case. It was very interesting to hear the burden of proof lies with the state and must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime did happen and the defendant is the one who committed the crime. If the state proves this then the jury must find the defendant guilty but if the state does not prove this they must find the defendant not guilty. The jury did not deliberate very long. The jury found the defendant not guilty. The case weighed heavily on the prosecuting attorney, Stacey truly cares about her victims. The rest of the afternoon I finished my rough draft of the resolution for the grant project and I did the Mercer 51 Report. June 28, 2008 This evening the Trenton Police Department conducted a DUI Checkpoint. This checkpoint was located near downtown Trenton at the Fire Station Headquarters. This DUI Stop was from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. This was a great experience to see law enforcement in action. When a vehicle pulled up to the check point the operation of the vehicle was informed this was a DUI Checkpoint and was asked if they had been drinking this evening. The point in speaking with the operator of the vehicle is to get them to speak with the officer to see if they can smell or detect signs of alcohol. The operator was also asked for license, registration, and proof of insurance. If the operator could not provide the information the operator was asked to pull into the parking lot next to the Fire Station Headquarters to do a further investigation. During the time of questioning the operator of the vehicle another officer would be checking the license plate, headlights, seat belts, and glancing inside the car with a flashlight to see if there was anything suspicious. This was a great experience and I was really glad I was there. Unfortunately before we arrived there was a police chase. I was a little disappointed I missed out on that. June 30, 2008 This morning we went to the Police Academy located at Mercer County College. My supervisor Angelo, conducted a class about searches and seizures. This was a very informative class where all the officer were engaged in conversation and real life examples. The rest of the day I worked on the Case Destruction Project. July 1, 2008 Today we had a new intern start. Angelo wanted him to start learning the process of the Case Destruction Project. I spent the day working with Joe on the Case Destruction Project. July 2, 2008 This morning I worked with Joe on the case Destruction Project and this afternoon a few more interns joined us to help finish the boxes we had. Unfortunately at the end of the day we had about 2 boxes to finish. July 3, 2008 Today is going to be a shorter day. The Prosecutor’s Office is closing at 2:30 p.m. This morning with the help of Joe I am finishing part of the Case Destruction Project. I also worked on the Mercer 51, typed the memo regarding the information in the Mercer 51, and delivered the memo to the appropriate people. This afternoon all the interns went to the Lamberton Road Facility. The lead detective for the Gang Unit, Frank gave us a presentation on the psyche of the gangs in Trenton and Mercer County. This was a very powerful presentation. Since the gang unit began, in 2006, there have been 51 gang related homicides in Mercer County. More often then not those who are killed are innocent by standers. A few years ago when this problem began city officials said they had a “presence” but there was no “problem.” Not long after “wars” began in 2005 and 2006 between the gangs. One war lasted three days. Eighty extra policemen were on duty in the streets. In one day eighteen people were murdered. The city officials began to recognize the problem. Today the urban terrorism still exists and the kids who are being raised on the streets are the gangs the biggest force. Pure pressure, a sense of family, and “having it all” is what makes these gangs appealing to the almost 2,000 known members in Mercer County. But according to Frank they only know about 40% of the gang members. I truly enjoyed the gang information. I am very interested in learning more about the gangs in the area. July 7, 2008 This morning I went to a sentencing for a defendant who had been on death row for 12 ½ years. In 2007, the state of New Jersey abolished the death penalty. Today the defendant was seeking jail credit for the time he had served while on death row. The defendant was convicted for two murders. The court determined the defendant would receive jail credit for the time served but he would also serve 30 years without parole ineligibility. This defendant will be about 94 when he has completed his sentence. The rest of the day I am working on a legal brief. July 8, 2008 This morning the interns went to the New Jersey State Police Forensic Lab in Hamilton. This was a really amazing tour. To start out the morning we were introduced to a case brief. A case brief is the facts of a case and how the detectives and forensic team uses the crime scene to retrieve evidence. In this particular case an older women was brutally murder. She had a skull fracture on the thickest part of the skull. The detective who did the presentation was a blood specialist. He uses physics and trigonometry to determine the direction and force of blood splatter. This was a very interesting and intriguing presentation. From that point we went on a tour of the forensic lab. The tour was great. We could observe the scientists in different area of the lab such as arson, drug, and ballistics conducting chemical tests. The ballistics area of the lab has 1700 guns that have been recovered or turn over to the police. All of these guns have been retrieved in the state of New Jersey. We also saw the evidence vault. This is a very secured and controlled environment for all evidence. The scientific perspective was a great view for future attorneys. The rest of the day I worked on a legal brief and a memo. July 9, 2008 This morning I finished the legal brief and memo I had started the previous day. I also copied a few charts for a discovery. A discovery is when another attorney seeks information about a defendant. This afternoon I went to a Cease Fire meeting with my supervisor. This was a really great meeting. The leaders of each judicial department in the county meet to discuss their cease-fire area. It seems the guns shots in the cease-fire area of Trenton are down from last year. Despite this great news the topic of conversation was a homicide. This homicide took yesterday morning around 11:00 a.m. I guess the victim was top Blood gang member. Rumor as it that there is a gang war going on between the Bloods and the different sets within the Bloods. The sets are Sex, Money, Murder and G- Shine. Trenton police is well aware of this information and taking the proper precautions to hopefully prevent any extreme violence from erupting. The rest of the day I worked on copying more charts for a discovery. July 10, 2008 Today I worked on phase two of the Case Destruction Project. The legal interns determine when the files can be destroyed. When they have determined that date I take the information and put into the Case Destruction Project master. July 11, 2008 This morning an intern from the Bar Association came to watch a trial. Unfortunately the trial previously pled out. So we worked on the Case Destruction Project. The rest of the day I finished phase two of the Case Destruction Project. July 14, 2008 Today I did not go into the office because I spent an extra day in Washington D.C. July 15, 2008 This morning I went to the Bail Hearings. There were quite a few interesting cases. There were co-defendants in a murder who received one million dollar bails. The state has a very strong case against them. The rest of the day I am going to work on the Case Destruction Project. July 16, 2008 This morning I spent time working on the Mercer 51 report and memo. I also worked on the Case Destruction Project. About 11:00 a.m. I went to a trial involving a defendant with possession of C.D.S. I was able to see the finishing process of jury selection and opening remarks to the jury made by the judge. Then the judge recessed for lunch. After lunch I watch the opening statements by the attorneys. Then there was questioning and cross-examination of the two police officers who pulled the defendant over. The state also called a narcotics scientist as a witness. The whole process was very exciting to watch. The trial recessed tell Friday morning at 9:00 a.m. because the judge has a prior commitment he has to attend to on Thursday. July 17, 2008 This morning I am going back through the charts myself and another intern copied for a discovery. I guess there was some information that was not copied that needed to be. Then for the rest of the day I am going to work on the Case Destruction Project. July 18, 2008 The trial reconvened today. The prosecution called one more expert in narcotics. This testimony was very helpful towards the prosecutions argument. The defense seemed to stumble around the same questions when questioning this witness. The defense did not seem to have a clear direction in their argument. The trial recessed around 12:30 p.m. after the jury charge. At this point in time the jury is still in deliberation. While I am waiting for them to come back with a verdict, I have been working on part two of the Case Destruction Project. Later this afternoon I am attending a Bar Bench Meeting. July 21, 2008 This morning I worked on two letters and a memo for the First Assistant. In the afternoon I worked on the discovery for a civil trial. The defendant has quite a criminal record but a lot of the information in the files in not public knowledge so I have to be very careful what I release. July 22, 2008 I only have about a week and a half left in my internship. We are going to receive more boxes tomorrow for the Case Destruction Project. My goal before I leave next Friday is to my portion of the project finished. One of the Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys went through the data and found a few errors that needs to be corrected. This is going to be my primary job today. This project is very important because once these files are destroyed the information we have gathered will be the only link to the file. I have to be very specific and detailed. July 23, 2008 This morning I attended a meeting at Princeton University. The University is in Mercer County. Local law enforcement, Emergency Services, and Princeton Administration conducted a tabletop exercise with the help of the FBI. This exercise was in response to an active shooter and everyone’s role in the situation. This was a great exercise to work out the glitches between communications before any actual emergency may take place. According to the FBI every 5 to 6 seconds a victim is lost. So in a situation like this every second is very important. People need to know what there duties are and how to execute them. It seemed the most important role-played was by the dispatchers. They are the primary source of communication between campus security, local police, township police, and the state police. The Prosecutor’s Office comes into the situation as it nears the end. Despite the chaos there is still a crime scen, which means someone needs to take control of that scen and deal with the media. That is where we come in. Our office determines who is going to make a public statement, when this public statement is going to take place, how often the media will be updated, and what will be said. In a situation like this you have to remember that there are thousands of people who have loved ones on the campus and want to know what the situation is but when it is only two maybe three hours into the crisis we view this as a terrorist threat and as such this is a criminal investigation, until it is determined to be otherwise. This was great meeting where I was able to gain a lot of information and meet very interesting individuals. The rest of the day I worked on the Case Destruction Project. July 24, 2008 This morning I went to the Lawrence Township Municipal Court. My supervisor, Angelo was prosecuting a couple of cases. When defendants have any family relations to anyone who works in the court or with Trenton judicial system they are sent to a local township municipal court for there matter to be heard before a judge. This is done to avoid any bias in any situation. The rest of the morning and afternoon I worked on the case destruction project. July 25, 2008 Today I worked on the Case Destruction Project. I also went to the different municipalities in Mercer County to have the Chiefs of Police sign an agreement drafted by the Prosecutor’s Office. It was really great meeting the chiefs and familiarizing myself with Mercer County. July 28, 2009 This morning I worked on two memos and one letter. The rest of the afternoon I worked on the Case Destruction Project. July 29, 2008 Today I am working on the Case Destruction Project. I am trying to get as much done as possible before Thursday. I know how important this project is to individuals at the Prosecutor’s Office. So, I have made it my priority this summer to make sure I put every effort into doing my best and completing it before I leave. July 30, 2008 I have been working very diligently on the Case Destruction Project. There are quite a few small details that need to be completed before the end of the day tomorrow and I am trying to complete them before I go. July 31, 2008 Well, today is my last day at the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and I must say I hate to go. I have really come to enjoy the office and the people I work with. I have grown so much this summer, both as a student and as an individual. I have a deep understanding of the judicial and criminal justice system. I have come to respect the men and women who are out there day in and day out fighting to make the world a better place. I think my experience in Trenton has given me an understanding about what kind of attorney I hope to someday be. Today I finished the summer portion of the case destruction project. It was a bittersweet day but I have truly enjoyed my experience. I have been asked to come back next summer and while I am in law school so it must mean the internship has gone well.
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