During their annual Prosecutor Academy, attorneys at the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office work with first year law students who are interested in a career as a prosecutor. This program provides students with rigorous training in trial skills and techniques in an effort to help create informed, responsible, and ethical future prosecutors.
In response to the current pandemic, this year’s academy adapted by shifting to an online platform from its usual in-person program. “The criminal justice system is constantly changing, and law students will need to evolve with it to succeed. We were thrilled that the students embraced the virtual courtroom, because nothing stands in the way of justice,” commented Ryan Wagner and Brian Feinberg – Deputy District Attorneys in Contra Costa and directors of the Prosecutor Academy. Several Santa Clara Law students, along with law students from across the United States, attended the program and worked through a mock murder case from beginning to end. Students were given the kind of documents a prosecutor would receive in an actual murder case, including a police investigation report, photographs, video and text message evidence. The group reviewed the applicable California Vehicle and Penal Code sections, as well as the appropriate jury instructions for the case, and discussed which charges were appropriate. After instruction and training on the necessary skills, students delivered their own opening statement, cross-examination, and closing argument. This was followed by detailed individual feedback given by prosecutors in the office, including Jessica Murad and Arsh Singh. “I really admired the talent and spirit of all the attorneys that helped us throughout the week. This experience was, of course, quite educational but also just incredibly fun,” said Natasha Sharma.
At the end of the program, a few participants are recognized for their exceptional performances. This year all three of the top honorees were Santa Clara Law students. Adena Ishii and Angela Madrigal were awarded “Best in Courtroom” for their virtual courtroom performances, and Natasha Sharma won the “Top Gun Award” for best overall performance! Watch for these students to be making a huge impact in their communities as they continue to pursue their interest in criminal law.