A thorough investigation of a criminal case is a prerequisite to a good defense. A defense investigator’s job is to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case and to provide a basis for the defense theory. In many cases handled by the Clinic, the prosecutor is not required to disclose facts that are critical to the case or will not provide the information in a format or time period that is useful. Pre-trial defense investigation is therefore necessary to properly advise the client, make strategic decisions about the case, and to prepare for trial. Investigative responsibilities include: locating and interviewing witnesses in both the field and local correctional facilities; drafting statements and memoranda for use in court hearings and at trial; conducting comprehensive criminal background checks; locating, collecting, reviewing and summarizing all written records and documentation that is relevant to the case; photographing, measuring and diagramming crime scenes and creating demonstrative evidence for trial. Lastly, interns are responsible for assisting the attorney in last-minute trial preparation and resolving issues that arise while the attorney is in trial. Interns coordinate defense witnesses, making sure that they are properly subpoenaed and have reliable transportation to and from the courthouse. Investigators will also have to testify in some cases.
Interns conduct all field investigations in pairs and are involved in all aspects of case preparation including providing strategic recommendations. Attorneys are encouraged to include their interns on consultations, plea negotiations, client meetings and strategy sessions.
In addition to pre-trial, criminal defense investigation, our interns also assist with post-conviction cases, where clients are filing for compassionate release or are eligible for resentencing under the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (IRAA).