My favorite experience as an intern has been going to court, especially during jury trials. It allows me to see the tangible application of all the hard work the attorneys and interns have put into a case. Each court day provides new insights as to how the process works, and by attending court weekly, you begin to follow clients’ stories even more closely. While it can be disheartening to see how long the process takes, seeing the various stages of court proceedings has helped me understand the importance of each of them. Through probable cause hearings and preliminary examinations to competency hearings, the system is constantly checking for accuracy over efficiency. The process is largely systematized, with each step leading the client through to the next. I’ve seen arguing between attorneys and the prosecutor, clients and judges, and even criminals with their own attorneys. With 95% of cases ending in plea bargains, however, it was particularly rewarding and interesting to be able to attend a jury trial.
The trial involved a man accused of attempted man slaughter of his wife through running her over with his car. Possible defenses included macular degenerate in his eyes, the husband’s frustration with his wife and she tried to take their son away from the father, and more. The man had gone through several attorneys, frustrated with their apparent lack of adequate representation. It seemed as though much of his case was built up by himself, and you could see his frustration during the trial.
He was found guilty.
Witnessing this somewhat disheveled jury trial helped me realize the importance of adequate representation and the occasional need for adjournment. This client and his lawyer simply weren’t ready – files weren’t in order, not all pieces of potential evidence had been subpoenaed, and the client lacked a good relationship with his attorney. While I had been exposed to a new experience unlike any I’d ever had, I left with a sobering thought that it was a privilege to attend a jury trial ‘for fun,” and that while I could reflect on the experience that played out before me, those two hours had a lifelong impact on the client.