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GIVING BACK

Sydney Beecher, 2017 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award, interned with the Department of Justice in the Criminal Litigation Unit.

I am a senior here at UW Madison and in May of 2018 I will be graduating with degrees in Legal Studies and Political Science and with a certificate in Criminal Justice. After graduation, I plan to attend law school with the long-term goal of becoming a prosecutor.

This Summer I had the opportunity to intern with the Department of Justice in the Criminal Litigation Unit. The Criminal Litigation Unit is comprised of Assistant Attorneys General (AAGs) who prosecute crimes throughout Wisconsin when the district attorney needs assistance or is unable to act. They also prosecute sexual predator commitments and provide advice and training to district attorneys and law enforcement across the state.

Before starting this internship with the Criminal Litigation Unit, I was thinking about taking a gap year or two before law school because I wanted to make sure that it was truly what I wanted to do before I dedicated my time and money towards a law degree. However, after just a few weeks of interning with the phenomenal attorneys at the DOJ, I am certain I found my passion in criminal law and am eagerly awaiting law school to start my journey to become a prosecutor.

During the past 10 weeks of my internship, I learned more about the role and responsibilities of a prosecutor, as well as a lot about myself, than I ever imagined I could. I performed legal research, attended various court proceedings, and provided analysis on cases files, learning a great deal about the court system, prosecutorial discretion, and the duties of a prosecutor in general. One of the most educational and eye-opening experiences I had during my internship, however, was learning about and participating in what prosecutors do behind the scenes when they prep for a trial. I worked closely on a case with one of the AAGs from the start of prep to the eventual plea hearing that took place; I compiled files for the prosecution’s witnesses, participated in prepping several of the witnesses to provide their testimony, and studied the files to help the prosecutor develop her case and prepare to cross-examine the defendant. Although the case did not end up going to trial as we thought, the experience and knowledge gained by prepping as much as we did and discussing why or why not the case would go to trial was priceless. One of the most memorable parts of that case was meeting with the victim’s family. During that meeting, I had the opportunity to observe the kind of positive impact a prosecutor can have on the victims of crime, and how having a prosecutor as exceptional as the one I was working with makes an enormous difference for those people who often are experiencing the criminal justice system for the first time. Having the privilege to see that side of the job, and how much the victim’s family depends on the prosecutor for guidance, reassurance, and knowledge, showed me how important it is to have exceptional, passionate people in this profession.

I am honored to be one of the recipients of the Audrey J. Harris Award, and am so grateful for the opportunities that it has given me. The DOJ attorneys travel across the state for their cases, and this scholarship enabled me to spend more time at my internship so that I could travel with them. Thank you to the family of Audrey J. Harris for your investment in my, and my peers’, education.