3L Prosecution Clinic Team Wins Assault Case
For the first case they had ever prosecuted, there were no other words the 3L team of Jahan S. Karamali and Kyle Sommerville wanted to hear more at the end of a long day in court. While they were unsure whether their hard work and preparation would end in a guilty verdict against the defendant on trial, when the jury came back on Oct. 21 siding with the prosecution they said there was no better feeling in the world.
“The facts and the evidence are what get the verdict and then the jury’s decision, but I felt like I played a role in that, so that was a new experience for me,” Karamali said.
Sommerville and Karamali are part of the Criminal Prosecution Clinic at Moritz, which gives students experience handling criminal cases for Delaware County.
This particular case, involving a workplace fight charged as an assault, was first assigned to Sommerville who then asked Karamali to be his partner in the matter. He said he was initially given the file a week before the case was set to go to trial, something that made both he and Karamali a bit nervous as they approached the first trial they would be handling from start to finish.
“Professor (Robert) Krivoshey assigned it to me initially and I guess the case had been bounced around for a while between different offices up in Delaware County. So he basically handed it to me and said ‘pick a partner the trial is next week.’ Luckily we got a continuance, so the trial wasn’t that week; we were able to put it off for about a month,” Sommerville explained.
Once they were able to get a continuance in the case, Karamali and Sommerville launched their own investigation into the case, interviewing witnesses and visiting the scene of the incident. Once they had the facts, they sat down and hashed out who would handle the examination of the witnesses and who would present opening and closing arguments.
“We sat down about a week before the trial and divided out who was going to do what. We had an idea of what our strengths were and what we were interested in doing. So, for example, Jahan is really good at arguments so she did the closing, because that’s more of an argument, and I did the opening statement and I also did the jury voir dire,” Sommerville said.
“He’s really good at voir dire. He gets people talking. We have Trial Practice class together as well and we practice all the different elements of trial. We had already covered voir dire in class and I knew that was something I wanted him to do,” Karamali added.
Once they had strategized who would be best at handling which parts of the trial, it was time to present their case to the jury.
Although they were confident they were prepared to try their case, the duo was unsure of how the jury would side as they watched what they described as a well-versed and seasoned defense attorney put on a strong case as well.
“I had started getting myself in that mindset of ‘ we’re going to lose and that’s OK.’ And not that we didn’t do everything right, but I thought the defense attorney did a good job of making his case, I feel like he did a really good job with the jury. He came across as a seasoned defense attorney, like a car salesman almost,” Sommerville said. “When the jury went back, it felt to me at that point it might be a coin-flip, it could go either way. But I guess I was wrong.”
Karamali and Sommerville, who both have strong interests in criminal law and hope to be in a trial or litigation practice arena after graduation, said the experience was invaluable to their law school education. Both said they would highly recommend their fellow students take a clinic course, whether that be the Criminal Prosecution Clinic, or another, during their time at Moritz.
“We had control over the theory of the case and how to present it, and that’s a lot more than you get in a mock trial. I love my Trial Practice class, but it’s not a real case, so you can take a little more liberty and you can rehearse with your witnesses. I can hand them a statement and say ‘this is what I need you to have this memorized by the time I put you on the stand.’ And it’s not like that in real life. So it was a great experience,” Karamali said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say do the Criminal Prosecution Clinic, but pick the one that aligns with your interests. Whether that’s mediation, legislation, civil, justice for children, prosecution, defense, or the entrepreneurial clinic, I think students should do a clinic because the practical experience is very different. You learn more than you necessarily would in just the classroom or from a book,” Karamali said.