My internship is at the Dare County District Attorney’s office. My mentor is Jennifer Karpowicz-Bland, one of two Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) in this county. I’ve been working in the office with her, ADA Jeff Cruden, and legal assistants Lisa Weatherly and Sammy Jo Hinnant. Jennifer and Jeff try cases in district and superior court. District court is every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and Superior court is one week a month. To prepare for these cases the ADAs have to gather evidence to convict the defendant. Most of this evidence comes from the scene of the crime, witness testimonies, materials gathered during warranted searches, and interviews with persons of interest. Some evidence, however, can be gathered from previous cases. This evidence can include past crimes the defendant has committed that are very similar to their current offense or crimes committed by others that are similar to the case at hand. My job as their intern is to gather this type of evidence to fortify their argument for conviction.
I have done research on several cases, one being the death of a woman who overdosed on fentanyl-laced heroin. To fortify the ADA’s argument to convict her drug dealer of second-degree murder, I researched similar cases that had similar outcomes. The same forms of evidence that these cases needed and provided in order to show, without a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime, are the same forms of evidence that the ADAs in this office must also show. When a jury sees that the facts of the current case are analogous to the facts of a previous cases, the judge convicts the defendant in an analogous way.
In addition to legal research, I have been able to attend court processions for district and superior court. District court handles a lot of DWI, DWLR (driving while licensed revoked), drug possession and drug trafficking cases. When the defendant or defense attorney appeals their conviction by a district court judge the case goes to superior court and the defendant has a trial by jury. I have seen the process of selecting an impartial jury, hearing witnesses testify and answer questions from the State and defense attorneys, and hearing the final verdict and sentencing from the judge.
Over the course of this internship I have learned a lot about how to try criminal cases. I’ve picked up legal terminology and I’ve become more proficient at using LexisNexis, a database of court cases. My initial interest in law and my decision to pursue a law degree have been validated by how much I’ve enjoyed this immersion into the work of an attorney.