This summer my internship provided me with incredible opportunities that allowed me to learn more extensively about public defense work, the death penalty, and America’s criminal justice system in general. While it is easy to recognize how much the CDO has given me, it is also important to reflect on the personal contributions that I have made to the office.
Much of the work that I did was gathering mitigating evidence that could be presented to a judge or jury in order to provide context to a crime/ our client’s role in a crime. This meant I combed through hospital records, school records, legal records, Instagram direct messages, and anything else that I could find relating to a client. When looking through these records, I would record and organize important or useful information and make it accessible to the office so that it could be used when writing briefs or presenting the case. Oftentimes, these records shed light on a client’s mental health issues, past abuse, etc. I made sure that my supervisor became aware of any of the information I found that could help convince a jury that our client does not deserve to be sentenced to death.
Along with the records review that I completed during my internship, each intern was required to work on a presentation on a topic of their choice that could be helpful to the office. I chose to research and present on the topic of social dangerousness (a criteria that must be proved in order for a jury to impose a death sentence) and how it negatively affects the mentally ill in our criminal justice system. I hoped to provide insight to the office on the history of social dangerousness in death penalty litigation and ways to keep an eye out for its negative effects when a client has a mental illness. The attorneys and mitigation specialists were able to comment on and ask questions about the topic after I presented, which spurred interesting conversations and opinions about the information.