My Favorite Case | #5

My favorite experience during my internship is probably not what a lot of people would expect. Since I am working for a judge, most would guess a jury trial or a drama-filed hearing would be my favorite but, my favorite experience was actually a sentencing hearing for one of the lead defendants in a huge drug conspiracy case. Last September, Judge Jonker was assigned a 22 defendant drug distribution case that crossed many state lines and even stretched into Mexico. Two of the leaders entered guilty pleas early on and became informants on other members of the conspiracy. During my third week, we had both sentencing hearings for these two defendants who happened to be brothers. Since these sentencings were the first ones I would ever sit in on, Judge Jonker walked me step-by-step through each component of their pre-sentence report and sentencing memorandum. He explained every aspect that was working in the defendant’s favor and every aspect working against them. He even gave me my own copy of the 600 page Federal Sentencing Guidelines Book. I learned so much and quickly became fascinated with the sentencing process. During their sentencing hearings, both sides gave impassioned oral arguments about a variety of different factors. Since I want to be a prosecutor, I always paid close attention to every attorney’s argument style. Some were direct, some were empathetic but, every single one was different. However, one of the best parts was that the defense attorney for one of the brothers referenced an opinion written by a judge in the same courthouse that had expressed a policy disagreement with one of the issues at hand. On my very first day, I had been in the courtroom when Judge Neff expressed the policy disagreement that this lawyer was using in his defense. Being apart of the sentencing process from start to finish of an extremely important drug conspiracy case that is still ongoing was easily my favorite experience. I will never forget what it felt like to sit by the judge during my very first sentencing hearing.

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