By: Richard Wooldridge
Interning at the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney was an invaluable experience for me as I move toward a legal career. After starting here, I quickly realized that the attorneys in this Office are required to have an extensive knowledge of the law. From my first experience watching court I recognized that a prosecutor is required to think on his or her feet constantly, responding to various situations in Court that they did not anticipate going into the day. Watching an experienced attorney, such as those in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, respond to situations like these is nothing short of impressive. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office is filled with attorneys equipped with an extraordinary knowledge of the law, making them formidable opponents in the courtroom and indispensable members of the criminal justice system aimed at protecting Lexington. Spending a summer in this Office has taught me the value of being familiar with the law to the point that you can use it at a moment’s notice to argue your case.
Not only must an attorney know the law, but they must also have pride in what they are doing. Spending only a short amount of time in this office, it is apparent that on the hard days of the job, it is necessary to be able to fall back on the pride one has in their job. A hard day in court is much easier to get through when you are fighting for something you believe in. The attorneys in this Office all work for the good of Lexington. It is apparent that having such a strong motivation backing them enables the attorney to work as hard as they. This lesson further instilled within me a desire to pursue a career in something of which I can be proud.
This experience has been an extremely valuable one that will prove invaluable as I continue to pursue a legal career.
By: Anna Curtin
Spending the summer interning with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney was an invaluable experience for me that taught me a great deal about the law and about what I would like to focus on in my future legal career. There were many opportunities to spend time in the courtroom at trials and hearings which helped me become more comfortable in the courtroom and more familiar with the criminal trial process.
It quickly became clear that being prepared with knowledge of the relevant law and legal standards was crucial to the success of this office. The ability to think quickly when unexpected and sometimes strange arguments are made in court is also a crucial skill. I was repeatedly impressed with the depth of legal knowledge the attorneys exhibited in court.
I also learned how the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s whole staff works as a team, always ready to jump in when help is needed. One of the most valuable aspects of this office is how well everyone gets along and routinely work together to ensure the state puts forth the best case to get justice for victims. I learned what it is like to work in an office where people genuinely believe in the importance of the work they do and how this translates into success in the courtroom and a safer Lexington for all citizens.
I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to work with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney and I know the knowledge I gained this summer will serve me far into the future as I embark upon my legal career.
By: Johnna Carey
Working as an intern in the Fayette Commonwealth Attorney’s Office this summer afforded me many learning experiences. Two lessons particularly stand out to me: crime is everywhere regardless of location, and all actors in the judicial system work together toward the best outcome.
I was raised in Cynthiana, Kentucky, an incredibly small town that provided a sheltered environment. I thought that abuse, robbery, homicide, and the like only happened in larger cities, and that a place like Lexington would be relatively free of serious crime. This summer opened my eyes to the reality that crime is prevalent no matter where you live. We assume that “bad things” occur in faraway places, but the truth is that the types of crimes seen on dramatic television shows happen every day to real people. The work at the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office is incredibly important because it seeks justice for those real people victimized by crime.
In seeking justice, the attorneys in this office work with victims’ advocates, detectives, and police officers. The amount of preparation involved with each case is amazing. So many people strive toward the same goal, and because of this, it is important to develop rapport with places like the police department, medical examiner, Child Advocacy Center, and more. Maintaining positive relationships allows the cases to move more swiftly through the judicial process.
From this experience, I will move forward with more awareness of the world around me and the importance of working together for a common purpose: making Lexington safer.
Jenna McNeal began her career in victim services as a Social Work major at the University of Kentucky. In 2010, as a practicum student and survivor of rape, Jenna came into the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office ready to change the world! She assisted victims of crime under the supervision of Mary Houlihan, the Director of Victim Services. Jenna’s hard work and enthusiasm made an impression on Ray the DA, and the rest is history!
During her undergraduate career, Jenna also interned at the Lexington Police Department’s Special Victims Unit and volunteered at many local victim-based agencies, including the Rape Crisis Center and UK’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Program. Immediately after graduation, she landed her first job as a Victim Intake Specialist at the Fayette Co. Sheriff’s Office where she assisted in the filing and court proceedings of Emergency Protective Orders.
Jenna’s career in victim advocacy peaked when she returned to the Fayette Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and accepted a position as the Red Flag Team Coordinator. Here, she helped spearhead new efforts in Lexington’s domestic violence advocacy community. Her responsibilities included coordinating the Red Flag Team’s response to high risk domestic violence cases and collaborating with various community and criminal justice agencies to help increase victim safety and enhance offender accountability.
After working in the field and observing the influence prosecutors have, Jenna decided to continue her pursuit in helping victims by becoming an attorney. She began law school at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law in the fall of 2013. During her first year of law school, Jenna worked as a law clerk for Catherine DeFlorio, the domestic violence attorney with Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, and began speaking at events about her experience as a survivor of rape.
We are excited to have Jenna back in the office, where she has been given a special assignment to assist on a domestic violence homicide! Welcome back Jenna!
By: Alyson Cox
I have gained many valuable experiences while interning in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office this summer. Specifically, I have had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time in the courtroom observing trials and hearings. This has allowed me to grow more comfortable in the courtroom environment and to no longer feel intimidated by the formal guise of court proceedings.
Additionally, while observing prosecutors prepare cases for trial, I have come to understand the importance of thorough preparation. When an attorney has briefed herself on the facts of the case and relevant legal authority, confidence in her presentation naturally follows. However, prosecutors must also have the ability to think on their feet when new issues arise in court. One cannot plan for every possible occurrence, and prosecutors must not allow unforeseen circumstances to unnerve them. Therefore, I have discovered that the combination of meticulous preparation and swift improvisation is crucial to success in the courtroom.
This knowledge will undoubtedly help me develop into an accomplished attorney one day. I am grateful for the opportunity to intern in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office this summer and have sincerely enjoyed my time here.
When a case is brought to court, the defendant may choose to represent his or her own self, denying the right to an attorney. This is called Pro Se, which means “for oneself” in Latin, also known as self-represented litigation. I find this concept very intriguing because when you think of the court system, you mainly think of attorneys. However, the court does allow for self-representing litigants. In the state of Kentucky, you have the right to represent yourself in all legal cases. Throughout history, pro se litigants were most commonly found in “poor people courts” or the courts that handle smaller cases involving traffic and landlords. However, today the court sees a major growth in the amount of pro se cases tried. In the year 2010, the United States Federal Court System had 93% of prisoner petitions and 10.5% of non-prisoner petitions that were filed by pro se litigants. This means that more people are seeing pro se as an option than before.
A commonly known case brought before the court in 2013 about a Ohio woman named Melody Williams who was convicted of aggravated arson and then murder, is an example of a pro se. She chose the option of not having an attorney represent her and as a result of the case, was sentenced to 59 years in prison. I believe that everyone has a right to an attorney and you should use that to your advantage. The court system was put in place many years ago to bring justice to those who were wronged as well as giving a voice to those who were accused. And today, that is still the main priority.
By: Olivia Fishback and Mary Greenfield
Recently, Charlotte Young, as well as both of us were able to appear on “98.1 The Bull” with Officer Don and Ray the D.A. The program, called “InTOUCH” will be aired on all of the Clear Channel radio stations and at various times on Sunday.
Part of the radio show focused on the Lexington Police Department’s different sectors as well as a segment about the differences in the police cars. Details on law enforcement sectors are here and police cars here.
The radio station setting was fascinating to us because it is hard to picture the effort put into the making of one radio show, let alone multiple shows. Fortunately, Officer Don is a very outgoing and well-known man, who welcomed us into his recording studio with a smile!
This was a very satisfying and exciting experience for us because none of us had ever been to a radio station before. It was also a learning experience. Ray wants us to express our opinions and ideas in an adult way in an adult setting which will teach us to get our points and thoughts across in a professional setting.
We are glad we were able to have the experience of being on air and many other experiences this summer.
By: Mary Greenfield
The officers stationed at these three sectors strive to protect the community and surrounding areas from crime.
This sector system was not always in use however. It all started in 1947 when the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government was created to try and analyze the 7 main neighborhoods that had a high number of police calls. The LFUCG tried to start programs in those areas which addressed the main issues in crime at that time.
However, the real solution to high crime rates was created in the late 1990s known as the sector system. The basic purpose of the sector system was to take the 7 neighborhoods that had the highest crime rate and station police surrounding the area. The locations of the offices for each sector are based on the overall geographic size of an area, the total number of residents in each area, and the total calls for service in each neighborhood. The result of the creation of these sectors led to an 8% decrease in crime rates by the year 2007.
I think these sectors are not only helpful to the community, but also necessary. People need to be able to see that they are protected from all sides. These sector offices also serve as a base for all the police activity in an area.
From our many field trips that are setup by our office, a police ride along is one of them. Going in to this field trip I did not know what to expect but I was certain of one thing, I will not be disappointed. There were two aspects that really stood out for me, the dedication of the police officers to keep their city safe and the teamwork between the officers.
The police officer’s dedication to the city was obvious mainly because it is not an easy job to do and not everyone can handle the pressures of the job. Our officers face criminals on a daily basis but that does not deter them from doing their job. It’s their belief and dedication to the city and its citizens that motivates the officers to do their job and report to duty every day.
Furthermore, this job is not a one-man show. Rather, it is a team effort. It is a team accomplishment when a mission is accomplished. There are several people who play an important role when a crime is solved such as the dispatcher, police officers, sergeant, and our citizens.
Because of my internship at the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, I had the wonderful opportunity to ride along with a police officer and I am very grateful for this experience.