King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office - Criminal Division
Lawand S. Anderson will be interning in the Criminal Division of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office this summer. The Criminal Division is responsible for prosecuting all felonies in King County and all misdemeanors in unincorporated areas of King County. As an intern, Lawand will investigate allegations of a crime, assist prosecutors with filing decisions, and court documents, interview witnesses, prepare briefs and motions, and other tasks associated with trial preparation. The work done in the KCPAO is important to Lawand because she is passionate about criminal law. Being a part of the criminal justice system in this capacity is her primary reason for attending law school. Lawand is committed to healthy communities and how best to use the law as a tool to promote public safety. A native of Seattle, Lawand has over ten years of City government experience and is a Seattle University Alum, class of 2007, where she earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration.
July 2, 2012
I am beginning the seventh week of my internship in the Criminal Division of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and I am having a blast. This division is located in Kent, Washington. The unit I am assigned to handles both felony and misdemeanor Domestic Violence (DV) cases. The first week I mostly shadowed the prosecutors during the day, watching them perform the tasks necessary for the position. Afterward, I spent a lot of time with the prosecutors assigned to misdemeanor DV cases. These cases tend to have routine issues and very few witnesses. As a result, they move fairly quickly through the system. I was allowed to sit at the table with the attorneys and at times to accompany them while they represent the state before the judge. Having this up close interaction allowed me to be a part of conversations that others would not be privy to, such as plea negotiations and last minute issues of concerns from both parties. The relationship between the prosecutors and defense can at times be tense, but their mutual respect shown day in and day out was evident. I’m not sure what I expected beforehand, but I was pleasantly surprised.
By week two I was assisting on case preparation, which included providing my opinion on case filing decisions. My job here was to make a decision on whether charges should be brought even though probable cause was already found. A finding of probable cause may appear to be enough to move forward on a case, but more analysis needs to be done to determine whether the case is one the state can prove and whether the case is one the state feels charges are warranted. This work was exciting as it afforded me the opportunity to view a case through several lenses. Although on the surface one might think that any time a person is arrested charges should be filed, but in reality there are times when mitigating factors should be considered before making this decision. For example, the cultural differences and practices can play a big part in whether a case should move forward or be dismissed. The most typical situation, when culture is taken into account, is in cases where a parent has disciplined their child. While this is a controversial topic for many, recognizing different cultural approaches to discipline in the home is one that should not be taken lightly. As a representative of the state, the job of a prosecutor is to represent everyone in the state, including those individuals from different ethnic backgrounds with different practices and beliefs. While analyzing the cases, I was encouraged to view each case in depth, placing the safety of the victim as well as the public above all else.
During weeks four and five, I pretty much spent my time working on trial briefs, motions and preparing cases that were going to trial. Trial preparation has many fascinating facets. The most interesting one for me is the jury selection process. Preparing notes, asking questions and weighing in on strategic decisions regarding which jurors to pick for the state was fun. I was also able to assist the prosecutor with his opening statement to the jurors. As I mentioned before, because these cases don’t have many complicated legal issues or witnesses, a trial usually only lasts two days. My first trial ended with the defendant being found guilty on two of the four counts charged. Later, after the trial was over, both attorneys were able to interview the jury and ask questions regarding their performance and what led to their decision.
Currently, I am working with the felony DV unit. The cases that reach felony level can have a long drawn out process. In fact, these cases generally are not resolved for months. While working on my first felony DV case, I sat in on several interviews with detectives and the victim in the case. This experience was invaluable. I had an opportunity to see the interaction between the defense attorney and potential witnesses before trial.
I am having an amazing summer working at the KCPAO. My internship has been exactly what I expected. I am learning a lot and am gaining practical experience. This work is very important to me and serves my commitment and passion for the processes and procedures surrounding criminal law.
July 25, 2012
Working at the KCPAO this summer has been by far the most rewarding experience in my legal career to date. Being a part of the criminal justice system when decisions are being made that affect an individual’s liberty and the community at large has allowed me to better appreciate how the system works and strive to help make change where it doesn’t.
My last few weeks in the office were spent assisting with the preparation of two very different trials. The first trial involved malicious mischief and felony violation of a no-contact order. I was responsible for writing a draft trial brief for the supervising prosecutor’s review. The facts of our case were pretty straightforward and there were several key pieces of evidence. This brief, called a Motion in Limine, allows the court to address possible issues before trial in an effort to move the case swiftly and as smoothly as possible. Ultimately, the defendant pled guilty to a lesser charge on the day of trial so the court did not address the brief I helped produce, which was a little disappointing. In this case, however, I felt the outcome was a good one.
The second case, which is still pending, involves several complex issues. Preparing trial briefs, reviewing discovery and sitting in on witness interviews was time consuming and required my undivided attention. Due to a civil suit connected with this case, interviewing all the victims in this case is a challenge (statements given in the criminal case can be used in civil litigation so there are a lot of lawyers involved). Even though my externship has ended I have been asked to continue assisting the prosecutor on this case from time to time, as a resolution is estimated to be at least another year out.
In all, my summer at the KCPAO was great. The knowledge, experience, and skills gained from just the summer’s work is invaluable and will greatly help me in my pursuit of a legal career as a prosecutor.