Rilwan Adeduntan (Class of 2007)
From the time when I was young, I always questioned the role of prosecutors and the entire criminal justice system. My friends and I believed, and some still today, that the criminal justice system was implemented to oppress minorities. This negative impression, compounded with their run-ins with the law, intensified my curiosity as to how the system operates and what roles, (other than the 'lock him up and throw away the key') do prosecutors play. I often wondered who represented the oppressed.
During my collegiate career, I majored in criminal justice and volunteered at the legal aid Public Defender clinic in Athens, Georgia. There, I gained a wealth of knowledge and experience as to the roles that public defenders play in the lives of these indigent defendants. This experience heightened my interest in becoming a litigator and advocating for the ones I thought were the oppressed.
During my law school career, I enrolled in the Lawyering process clinic because I was told that it would expose me to a range of practice settings and provide me an opportunity to learn how to actually practice as a "student attorney" in a real-world setting. I was amazed as to how much I was allowed to do under the student practice rule (3:03). They allowed me to interact with clients and represent them in court; I even completed a full trial. I quickly learned tactful ways to represent my client effectively. I found that establishing a level of trust and confidence with client paid dividends in the end. The positive outcome of my trial and the satisfaction of my client increased my interest in becoming an advocate for the oppressed. But the question remains; who are the oppressed? In a family law context, such as with my client, the individual seeking divorce due to domestic abuse is surely the oppressed.
During the summer of my second year, I received a Public Interest Law Association (PILA) grant and obtained a summer internship with Middlesex District Attorney's (DA's) office. The highlight of my interview for the summer internship was my experience at the Lawyering Process clinic; they wanted to know about my trial. They showed interest in my hands-on experience as a student attorney advocating for my client, and my ability to gain the trust and confidence of my client. They also wanted to know whether I actually completed the trial on my own. They were very impressed to hear that while I received supervision by a practicing attorney, I did an opening, direct, and closing.
During my time at the Middlesex DA's office, I finally was able to answer my lingering questions. Prosecutors are not oppressors of minorities. Instead they are protectors of the victims, who were hurt, injured, or even killed. While most of the crimes were black on black or minority on minority crimes, I noticed that similar people were on both sides. Prosecutors are advocating for the minority victim, not punishing the minority accused. Thus, by prosecuting, they are protecting the present and future victims of the same crime.
I recently accepted an offer with the Suffolk DA's office, and yet again, the highlight of my interview was the trial that I completed at the Lawyering Process clinic. I credit my employment to the hands-on experience that I obtained at the clinic. I also credit the public sector for giving me answers to my questions, but most of all for stimulating and heightening my desire to be an advocate for the real oppressed and not the oppressors.