How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

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coldshoulder
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby coldshoulder » Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:03 pm

It may have already been addressed, but: tattoos? As long as they're not visible in the workplace who gives a damn? Or they can be visible in the workplace since there's no client interaction (working for the state, DA or PD)? Thoughts?

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spleenworship
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby spleenworship » Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:38 pm

coldshoulder wrote:It may have already been addressed, but: tattoos? As long as they're not visible in the workplace who gives a damn? Or they can be visible in the workplace since there's no client interaction (working for the state, DA or PD)? Thoughts?



I can only give you the perspective from a Mountain Best state, but here and in the state immediately to my north, nobody cares for guys as long as you can't see them under a suit. Now.... lower arm tattoos or noticeable calf tattoos on women could theoretically be an issue, though honestly I doubt it unless they were in bad taste. I only add that caveat because none of the women at my office have tattoos below the knee or elbow.

Again, this is a mountain west state - the east coast tends to be a lot more uptight about crap like this for no reason I can discern.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:07 pm

coldshoulder wrote:It may have already been addressed, but: tattoos? As long as they're not visible in the workplace who gives a damn? Or they can be visible in the workplace since there's no client interaction (working for the state, DA or PD)? Thoughts?

I mean, if you're a PD you have tons of client interaction, so do you mean it doesn't matter because they're not paying you? :D

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby encore1101 » Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:30 pm

coldshoulder wrote:It may have already been addressed, but: tattoos? As long as they're not visible in the workplace who gives a damn? Or they can be visible in the workplace since there's no client interaction (working for the state, DA or PD)? Thoughts?


I would not show them until I've been working there for a few years..

First impressions mean a lot, and a lot of the supervisors look like they've been in the game for literally decades. While its getting more and more acceptable in modern business offices to have tattoos, I feel like law hasn't really caught up yet.

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Displeased
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:51 am

coldshoulder wrote:It may have already been addressed, but: tattoos? As long as they're not visible in the workplace who gives a damn? Or they can be visible in the workplace since there's no client interaction (working for the state, DA or PD)? Thoughts?


If they are not visible under a suit, nobody needs to know, and even if they did, nobody cares. Its not uncommon for PDs to have mild tattoos that aren't immediately visible.

If they are visible, might be an issue depending on your boss. Having tattoos that would be visible in court would probably do more harm than good with juries and judges. Its definitely a negative hiring wise, but its not disqualifying. Unless we're talking tattoos that are in bad taste or full sleeves or something.

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spleenworship
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby spleenworship » Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:59 am

Displeased wrote:
coldshoulder wrote:It may have already been addressed, but: tattoos? As long as they're not visible in the workplace who gives a damn? Or they can be visible in the workplace since there's no client interaction (working for the state, DA or PD)? Thoughts?


If they are not visible under a suit, nobody needs to know, and even if they did, nobody cares. Its not uncommon for PDs to have mild tattoos that aren't immediately visible.

If they are visible, might be an issue depending on your boss. Having tattoos that would be visible in court would probably do more harm than good with juries and judges. Its definitely a negative hiring wise, but its not disqualifying. Unless we're talking tattoos that are in bad taste or full sleeves or something.


I know a dude with full sleeves. But since you can't see it under a suit, and since the clients don't care (most of them are covered in tats, including the "I never want a real job again" neck and face tattoos), they had no issue hiring him.

ETA: though I bet DAs offices give more shits about this - they tend to be more conservative. All my advice should be construed as a regional PD thing.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby whereskyle » Sun Jul 27, 2014 12:19 pm

Displeased wrote:Think I've derailed the thread enough with the jury trial talk. Time to offer some unsolicited opinions on applying for PD jobs.

- Client relations is the primary skill. Courtroom acumen is secondary, and legal knowledge is a distant third. Write your cover letter and handle your interviews accordingly.

- Since client relations is the primary skill, the best way to demonstrate that is by being personable in your interview. PD's tend to be a little unprofessional and quirky, so I'd err on the side of being too relaxed in the interview.

- "Why public defense" is a common question in interviews/theme in cover letters. You should have a good answer. But the question is not "how can you defend criminals?". If you find yourself explaining in the middle of your cover letter or interview how you can find it within yourself to defend the obviously guilty, I think you've messed up. If I was a Marine recuiter, and I asked you "Why apply for the Marines?", and you responded by talking about the ethics of killing and just war theory, I'd think you were a naive idiot. Same principle applies to public defenders.

- If you get asked an ethics hypo, err on the side of your client. Don't suggest that you'd do anything that would risk your bar license, but always err on the side of your client. Having said that, PD's are unusually sensitive to getting bar complaints (due to the sheer number of ineffective assistance of counsel claims we receive), but still, client comes first.

- Good questions to ask in interviews: " How's discovery in this jurisdiction?" (Probably the single most important factor affecting the outcome of cases) and " What's the jail like?" (You'd be amazed how much a bad jail can affect your quality of life as a PD).


Is it uncouth to show a little emotion regarding issues of class and criminal justice in response to the Why PD question? Or is visible enthusiasm a plus? Thanks, btw.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby spleenworship » Sun Jul 27, 2014 12:26 pm

whereskyle wrote:
Is it uncouth to show a little emotion regarding issues of class and criminal justice in response to the Why PD question? Or is visible enthusiasm a plus? Thanks, btw.



I know you were asking Displeased, but I will say that I think its an office to office, interviewer to interviewer thing. I showed visible emotion in all 12 of my first round interviews and got four callbacks. One of the interviewers was obviously displeased with my answers (no callback, thanks PDS you elitist jerks), but all four of the callbacks told me they were pleased with my enthusiasm. I mean, if you come off as naive, I'm sure they'd be way less likely to call you back, but some obvious passion doesn't hurt unless your interviewer wants someone cold and calculating. Of course, YMMV.

Hopefully Displeased will be able to elaborate more.

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Sun Jul 27, 2014 2:09 pm

I can't say I've ever heard of a PD office faulting someone for being passionate about issues of poverty, race, class, structural/systemic injustice, etc. I mean, if that's all you bring to the table, then that's a problem, but I don't think any PD office hates talking about that stuff.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby spleenworship » Sun Jul 27, 2014 2:27 pm

Tanicius wrote:I can't say I've ever heard of a PD office faulting someone for being passionate about issues of poverty, race, class, structural/systemic injustice, etc. I mean, if that's all you bring to the table, then that's a problem, but I don't think any PD office hates talking about that stuff.



I'm telling you man, the PDS interviewer seemed to dislike it.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Sun Jul 27, 2014 6:19 pm

spleenworship wrote:
whereskyle wrote:
Is it uncouth to show a little emotion regarding issues of class and criminal justice in response to the Why PD question? Or is visible enthusiasm a plus? Thanks, btw.



I know you were asking Displeased, but I will say that I think its an office to office, interviewer to interviewer thing. I showed visible emotion in all 12 of my first round interviews and got four callbacks. One of the interviewers was obviously displeased with my answers (no callback, thanks PDS you elitist jerks), but all four of the callbacks told me they were pleased with my enthusiasm. I mean, if you come off as naive, I'm sure they'd be way less likely to call you back, but some obvious passion doesn't hurt unless your interviewer wants someone cold and calculating. Of course, YMMV.

Hopefully Displeased will be able to elaborate more.


I agree with Spleen. You want to be somewhat enthusiastic about criminal justice issues and race and poverty and all that, but can't come off as naive or as a zealot.

Naivete is a problem for many interviewees. You aren't going to "fix" your clients. You aren't Superman, you aren't going to rescue them through your representation. You aren't even a social worker. Your job is to stand up there next to the accused and poke holes in the state's case. That's it.

I've said this before in this topic, but being a PD is a hard job. You will have very few unqualified triumphs. Most of the time, you are just trying not to screw up a person's life. And, by the way, sometimes you will screw up a person's life, and you just have to man up and move on to the next case. You will stand next to a client, a client you liked and possibly thought had a chance of acquittal, he will be found guilty due to a mistake you made or a question you failed to ask, he will be shuffled off to prison, and then 30 seconds later they call your next case. And then the next, and then the next. Naive public defenders just don't survive.

And as for zealotry, well...Zealots aren't fun to have around in the office.

Basically, aim for a happy medium. At my interviews, I used to say something like "You know, you read in textbooks about how racist the system is and how it disproportionally affects blacks. But when you sit in a courtroom, and you see all the white guys in suits sitting at counsel table, and look back and see the sea of black faces in the gallery, waiting for their cases to be called....its plain as day how racialized the criminal justice system is. I can't change that, but maybe I can make the whole thing a little less impersonal for my clients."

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:25 pm

I like having a zealot or two in my office. It helps to have reminders that the battles you're fighting are part of a larger war that's been going on for decades.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:07 pm

Displeased wrote: Good questions to ask in interviews: " How's discovery in this jurisdiction?" (Probably the single most important factor affecting the outcome of cases) and " What's the jail like?" (You'd be amazed how much a bad jail can affect your quality of life as a PD).


Elaborate please

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Tue Jul 29, 2014 7:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Displeased wrote: Good questions to ask in interviews: " How's discovery in this jurisdiction?" (Probably the single most important factor affecting the outcome of cases) and " What's the jail like?" (You'd be amazed how much a bad jail can affect your quality of life as a PD).


Elaborate please


The prosecution is obligated to provide you with very little. Shockingly little. You get any any of your defendant's statements, expert reports (usually just a sheet of paper saying "we tested it, its totally cocaine/your client's semen, trust us", and any exculpatory information . Two guesses which side gets to define "exculpatory". And if you don't know the information exists, you can't ask the court to force the prosecution to hand it over.

So, you are at the mercy of the prosecution. Some prosecutors have open file policies, meaning you get everything that's written in their file. That's usually good, though I suspect that even those jurisdictions keep two books, or redact some relevant stuff when the defense attorney comes snooping. Others just provide you what they "think" they are obligated to provide you. I've gone to trial on very serious charges with little more from the prosecution than a sheet of paper saying "the defendant made no statements and the state is aware of no exculpatory information". And since the state is not obligated to hold any preliminary hearings, and witnesses have no obligation to talk to me, I often have no idea what the witnesses are going to say until the day of trial.

And its not just that I suck, or the state is taking advantage of my inexperience (though honestly that's probably part of it). Last week I was talking to a 50+ year old attorney who had been doing criminal law for decades. She told me that she was doing a malicious wounding trial recently, and the prosecution leaned over halfway through witness testimony to tell her that the witness was drunk the night of the incident.

I've only practiced in one state and its an extraordinarily pro-prosecution state. I've heard other states are better about discovery. Discovery varies dramatically from city to city in my state, I'm sure it varies even more from state to state. The point is, it matters, and its a good thing to know before you start. Its a good thing to ask about, because it demonstrates you understand what's important in a criminal case.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby coldshoulder » Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:41 pm

Displeased wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Displeased wrote: Good questions to ask in interviews: " How's discovery in this jurisdiction?" (Probably the single most important factor affecting the outcome of cases) and " What's the jail like?" (You'd be amazed how much a bad jail can affect your quality of life as a PD).


Elaborate please


The prosecution is obligated to provide you with very little. Shockingly little. You get any any of your defendant's statements, expert reports (usually just a sheet of paper saying "we tested it, its totally cocaine/your client's semen, trust us", and any exculpatory information . Two guesses which side gets to define "exculpatory". And if you don't know the information exists, you can't ask the court to force the prosecution to hand it over.

So, you are at the mercy of the prosecution. Some prosecutors have open file policies, meaning you get everything that's written in their file. That's usually good, though I suspect that even those jurisdictions keep two books, or redact some relevant stuff when the defense attorney comes snooping. Others just provide you what they "think" they are obligated to provide you. I've gone to trial on very serious charges with little more from the prosecution than a sheet of paper saying "the defendant made no statements and the state is aware of no exculpatory information". And since the state is not obligated to hold any preliminary hearings, and witnesses have no obligation to talk to me, I often have no idea what the witnesses are going to say until the day of trial.

And its not just that I suck, or the state is taking advantage of my inexperience (though honestly that's probably part of it). Last week I was talking to a 50+ year old attorney who had been doing criminal law for decades. She told me that she was doing a malicious wounding trial recently, and the prosecution leaned over halfway through witness testimony to tell her that the witness was drunk the night of the incident.

I've only practiced in one state and its an extraordinarily pro-prosecution state. I've heard other states are better about discovery. Discovery varies dramatically from city to city in my state, I'm sure it varies even more from state to state. The point is, it matters, and its a good thing to know before you start. Its a good thing to ask about, because it demonstrates you understand what's important in a criminal case.


Where do you practice Displeased?

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby FlanAl » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:04 pm

In the interest of getting a job could you tell us what the appropriate response would be for each type of jurisdiction. Something like: "discovery is terrible, good I like a challenge" or "oh man that stinks, good to know though"

I wanted to ask questions like these in interviews but didn't know what the right response would be so I didn't. I didn't even know that the place I will be working for didn't provide representation at arraignment until last year, arraignment was like all my internships were about ha! (apparently they provide attorneys at arraignment hearings but not arraignment? no idea, see this is why I didn't ask these kinds of questions)

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:31 pm

FlanAl wrote:In the interest of getting a job could you tell us what the appropriate response would be for each type of jurisdiction. Something like: "discovery is terrible, good I like a challenge" or "oh man that stinks, good to know though"

I wanted to ask questions like these in interviews but didn't know what the right response would be so I didn't. I didn't even know that the place I will be working for didn't provide representation at arraignment until last year, arraignment was like all my internships were about ha! (apparently they provide attorneys at arraignment hearings but not arraignment? no idea, see this is why I didn't ask these kinds of questions)


Nah, nobody's looking for that biglaw gunnery attitude like "Oh I like the challenge of no constitutional rights being upheld." But some good old fashioned "That really sucks, those people are d-bags!" comradely is always welcome.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:59 pm

Where do you practice Displeased?


Virginia. I was trying to be cute and disguise it a bit, but at this point I've said enough to be identifiable. Besides, here in Virginia the state is called the "Commonwealth" and prosecutors are "Commonwealth attorneys", and I'm getting tired of mentally changing it to "prosecutors" to try to hide my state.

FlanAl wrote:In the interest of getting a job could you tell us what the appropriate response would be for each type of jurisdiction. Something like: "discovery is terrible, good I like a challenge" or "oh man that stinks, good to know though"


If you say "Good I like a challenge", some interviewers might get legitimately angry at you. I probably would. Its not about the challenge, its about the client. Not knowing anything about the case is not "challenging". Its horrifying. Appeals are challenging, tricky legal questions are challenging. Not knowing the facts of the case is not "challenging", its just...awful.

The first time your "challenging" case ends with a client going to prison for years because you were lazy, or forgot to ask a question, or failed to object fast enough, or failed to articulate your objection, or failed to call a witness, or just plain missed a legal issue, you'll stop talking about craving a challenge.

I don't think you need to comment if discovery is good. If its bad, ask if the office has any investigators/how they deal with it.

The only context in which I would say something to the effect of "I like a challenge" is when discussing the types of cases you get. I've heard some jurisdictions stick their newbie attorneys on the traffic docket for the first year. That's probably a good policy (stops newbie attorneys from ruining too many lives early on), but it probably is a godawful boring job and mindnumbing. I would make sure the job gives you "challenging" cases in the sense that you'll get a healthy mix of felonies and misdemeanors.

I wanted to ask questions like these in interviews but didn't know what the right response would be so I didn't. I didn't even know that the place I will be working for didn't provide representation at arraignment until last year, arraignment was like all my internships were about ha! (apparently they provide attorneys at arraignment hearings but not arraignment? no idea, see this is why I didn't ask these kinds of questions)


Honestly, I'm also a little confused by all the people talking about representation at arraignment. In Virginia, you don't have arraignments for misdemeanors. You just have appointment of counsel, and then trial. For felonies, the arraignments happen about 3 weeks after the appointment of counsel, and arraignment is where you decide your plea and also whether you go jury or judge. So, you can't have an arraignment in Virginia without counsel (unless you are pro se). There's no such thing as "arraignment duty", unless you count sitting in the court and watching people get appointed counsel as arraignment duty. Let me map it this way:

Misdemeanors :
Arrest ======Appointment of counsel=====trial.

Felonies (two possibilities)
A: Arrest======appointment of counsel======preliminary/probable cause hearing (in District court)========arraignment===========Trial
B: Indictment=========Appointment of counsel==========Arraignment=========Trial.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 29, 2014 10:55 pm

Displeased wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Displeased wrote: Good questions to ask in interviews: " How's discovery in this jurisdiction?" (Probably the single most important factor affecting the outcome of cases) and " What's the jail like?" (You'd be amazed how much a bad jail can affect your quality of life as a PD).


Elaborate please


The prosecution is obligated to provide you with very little. Shockingly little. You get any any of your defendant's statements, expert reports (usually just a sheet of paper saying "we tested it, its totally cocaine/your client's semen, trust us", and any exculpatory information . Two guesses which side gets to define "exculpatory". And if you don't know the information exists, you can't ask the court to force the prosecution to hand it over.

So, you are at the mercy of the prosecution. Some prosecutors have open file policies, meaning you get everything that's written in their file. That's usually good, though I suspect that even those jurisdictions keep two books, or redact some relevant stuff when the defense attorney comes snooping. Others just provide you what they "think" they are obligated to provide you. I've gone to trial on very serious charges with little more from the prosecution than a sheet of paper saying "the defendant made no statements and the state is aware of no exculpatory information". And since the state is not obligated to hold any preliminary hearings, and witnesses have no obligation to talk to me, I often have no idea what the witnesses are going to say until the day of trial.

And its not just that I suck, or the state is taking advantage of my inexperience (though honestly that's probably part of it). Last week I was talking to a 50+ year old attorney who had been doing criminal law for decades. She told me that she was doing a malicious wounding trial recently, and the prosecution leaned over halfway through witness testimony to tell her that the witness was drunk the night of the incident.

I've only practiced in one state and its an extraordinarily pro-prosecution state. I've heard other states are better about discovery. Discovery varies dramatically from city to city in my state, I'm sure it varies even more from state to state. The point is, it matters, and its a good thing to know before you start. Its a good thing to ask about, because it demonstrates you understand what's important in a criminal case.


I'm a prosecutor in Miami, and holy shit this is shocking. Florida grants a depositions as a right, and I've had motions to compel granted against me to turn over reports that didn't actually exist (the defense thought it might possibly exist). So, to further echo displeased, your state's discovery rules are really fucking important.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Tue Jul 29, 2014 10:58 pm

In Santa Clara county, CA, the prosecutors redact all info on witness statements disclosed to the defense except for their contact info. Not even joking. The Court of Appeal finally got around to gently scolding the shit out of them, but they released it in an unpublished opinion, so the SCDA office reasoned that this meant they only had a problem with that one case against that one defendant and is still continuing to blatantly defy the Constitution.

Some offices are just ballsy and smug as hell. It's not politically popular just about anywhere to call these offices on their shit.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:23 pm

I'm a prosecutor (not in any of the jurisdictions already mentioned), and holy crap, I'm so glad I'm not in any of those places. I mean, if I can't convict unless I hide all kind of shit from the defense, I don't want that conviction. (I know defense counsel where I am complain about discovery, too - for instance, the defense doesn't get depositions as a right - but we hand over tons of stuff and take it really seriously.) I think one of the biggest sources of conflict is info about confidential informants, especially where you're running big investigations.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a prosecutor (not in any of the jurisdictions already mentioned), and holy crap, I'm so glad I'm not in any of those places. I mean, if I can't convict unless I hide all kind of shit from the defense, I don't want that conviction. (I know defense counsel where I am complain about discovery, too - for instance, the defense doesn't get depositions as a right - but we hand over tons of stuff and take it really seriously.) I think one of the biggest sources of conflict is info about confidential informants, especially where you're running big investigations.



The rules about informants are all fucked up. The only reason clients want the info half the time is really because they want to know who the informant is, which isn't cool. On the other hand, it also really isn't cool when we can't prepare for a case because we don't know for sure who's making the allegation.

A professor of mine worked federal defense in SDNY, and upthere they are not obligated to give you a ton of crucial discovery until the day of trial. He'd have to invent his theory of the case on his lunch break in-between opening statements.

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Displeased
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Displeased » Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I'm a prosecutor (not in any of the jurisdictions already mentioned), and holy crap, I'm so glad I'm not in any of those places. I mean, if I can't convict unless I hide all kind of shit from the defense, I don't want that conviction. (I know defense counsel where I am complain about discovery, too - for instance, the defense doesn't get depositions as a right - but we hand over tons of stuff and take it really seriously.) I think one of the biggest sources of conflict is info about confidential informants, especially where you're running big investigations.


I don't know if the Commonwealth "needs" to hide stuff to convict, they just do. Even when my client confesses (which is about 50% of the time), I still don't get anything in discovery other than the confession itself. So, when I'm used to not getting anything, it makes it easier when they do have something to hide. If I typically got 50 pages of discovery for everything, and then on a random rape case I only get 2 pages, I'll know somethings up. When I get the same 2 page discovery response to everything from an embezzlement to a rape, I don't know when the Commonwealth is actually hiding something and when they are just following standard procedure.

I understand the Commonwealth's concern about confidential informants, I really do. But it tends to turn the case into a farce here. Client can't see the video or know the name of the CI before trial, or else no deals. If the client/attorney refuses to waive the admissibility of the lab report (aka forcing the lab tech to testify that it is cocaine/marijuana whatever), the Commonwealth demands a jury (meaning the client is subject to five years mandatory minimum per drug transaction). Its basically a star chamber. Plead before you know the evidence against you, or else you'll find out what the evidence is at the same time as the jury finds out.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby mw115 » Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:53 pm

In Texas they recently drastically modified discovery rules to reflect the federal rules, although my understanding is that most DA's offices had sort of gone towards being very open with PD's.

What your saying about the USAO in SDNY blows my mind as that is just something that seems, if not a blatant violation of Rule 16, at least an obvious violation of the spirit of it. I can't imagine the fed's in my district even trying that shit without getting reamed by the court.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 30, 2014 1:41 am

do any of you have advice for the 2L job hunt (for PD)? what type of cases is best to work on - I'm targeting a jurisdiction that splits misdemeanors/felonies/homicides into separate branches so those are the only types of cases you get. how much responsibility should you expect to have? also how is the timeline/process different than how it is for everyone else at law school seeking a normal firm job?




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