Banner

Jacob Burnett ’15 – The Vantage Point of Gideon’s Army

Jacob Burnett ’15 – “From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.”

Supreme Court Associate Justice Hugo Black wrote these words into law when authoring the decision in Gideon v. Wainwright. In essence, the Supreme Court dictated that every individual charged with a crime has a fundamental right in our justice system to an attorney. It gave color to the spirit of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution – rights enjoyed by all citizens.

This summer, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Criminal Law Internship Program (CLIP) through the Public Defender Service (PDS) in Washington D.C. PDS embodies these fundamental tenets of our justice system. I am an investigative intern that, as my title implies, investigates crimes on behalf of an attorney that represents indignant clients. Due to closed discovery, PDS receives very limited information involved in a case. To fill that void, Staff Investigators, other interns, and I perform crime scene investigations, canvass for evidence, serve subpoenas, take statements, find witnesses, attend court hearings, develop defense theories, and perform any other task that arises during an investigation. I’ve also had the opportunity to sit in on seminars regarding forensic evidence, flaws in eyewitness identification, legal writing, and many more. Therefore, my internship has provided me with a two-pronged wonder world: hands-on investigation and education on the inner workings of the criminal justice system.

At PDS, we are assigned an intern partner. I had the pleasure of working with Caitlin Rams, a rising junior at the University of Wyoming.

At PDS, we are assigned an intern partner. I had the pleasure of working with Caitlin Rams, a rising junior at the University of Wyoming.

I was assigned to a trial division attorney to investigate Felony 1 cases. It has given me a brand new appreciation for all the work that goes into trial preparation. It also taught me more about myself, humanity, social justice, and passion than any textbook or class could attempt to address. Honestly, if you were interested in a typical office or corporate law job with a regular 9-5 schedule, this internship was not for you. I accomplished all my work first hand. It wasn’t from a distance. I canvassed crime scenes more than I completed office work.

Along with this assignment, I had the opportunity to work in the Special Litigation Department at PDS. This department works on numerous projects that are not necessarily tied to trial. The attorneys work on impacting policy, writing amicus briefs, and many other projects. I had the opportunity to work on a Car Forfeiture program. In essence, I helped identify owners of formally repossessed vehicles and work on reuniting these people with their vehicles. Unlike other interns, I also had the opportunity to work in the appellate division as well. My intern partner and I searched for newly discovered witnesses and evidence to help an appellate attorney win a new trial for our client.

All of us have sat through a “Law and Order” episode or one of its sister shows. We root for the good guy prosecutor who has overwhelming evidence against the defendant. We shake our head at the slimy defense attorney who represents the obviously guilty individual. Sometimes I receive unenthusiastic responses, morose facial expressions, or snide remarks about my work when I inform people where I am interning. However, through my work at PDS, I have learned that the world of criminal law presents a mosaic of mess – often times substantially, racially, and economically poisoned. More often than not, the evidence is not clear and convincing. If it is, many people decide to plea and not go to trial. It is my job to work to ensure that the government does their job and does not send an innocent person to jail or violate their fundamental liberties.

I work for convicted felons, accused felons, and prisoners. However, they are more than these labels; they are people. I spend my time in poor communities and jails. And I couldn’t be more honored. These individuals have trusted me with their liberty. I would want nothing else to ensure that justice is attainable and contingent upon culpability and not wealth. It further demonstrates my belief that basic humanity demands dignity. This experience has strengthened my belief that we all are more than the worst thing we have ever done. I have met some of the most selfless people behind jail bars.

We live in a country where an individual is twenty-two times more likely to receive the death penalty if they are black. We live in a country where an individual is eight times more likely to receive the death penalty if the victim is white. We live in a country where one in eight individuals on death row have been exonerated. We live in a country where the justice system treats you more fairly if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent. My job at PDS has given me the tools to ensure that the words written on the façade of the Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law,” represent more than mere letters inscribed in concrete. The safeguards in place under our constitution protect the rights experienced by the guilty and innocent alike – people like you and me.

It will be difficult when I return to Wabash for the fall semester and people ask me how my summer was because it is indescribable. I will not be at a loss for words to paint a picture for those who are interested, but describing my experience robs it of the veracity embodied through living it. Words cannot capture the work I have accomplished, people I have met, and the life I have lead these past twelve weeks.

Last summer, I started a journey working for the disenfranchised as an intern at the Legal Aid Society of Louisville. Overall, I have had another opportunity to explore the practice of ruthless empathy. I would not have had this experience without the generous funding of the Harold M. and Margaret R. Coons Public Service Internship grant, the F. Michael Cassel award, and the funding I’ve earned as a summer Research Assistant for Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Burch. Without this funding, I would not have had the chance to work at PDS or live and work in a city I haven’t been to before now. I am forever indebted to these funders for their generosity.

Crouch ’17 Gentleman in DC

Crouch '17 looks down over the Capitol Building on July 4th

Crouch ’17 looks down over the Capitol Building on July 4th

Cole Crouch ‘17 – For the summer of 2014, I am interning in Washington, D.C. for Congressman and Wabash alumnus Todd Rokita ’92. Before I jump into the details, I would like to thank the Coonses and the Wabash College Political Science Department for awarding me and continuing to award numerous Wabash students with the Harold M. and Margaret R. Coons Public Service Internship Award. Their gracious gift has allowed me to experience this incredible opportunity that may not have been available to me otherwise. I am too thankful for the sacrifices my family has made so that I may experience this opportunity.

Together with my first year at Wabash College, interning in the 2nd Session of the 113th United States Congress has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Seriously. Since my first day, I have gained such a keen sense of the legislative process. As a member of Congressman Rokita’s office, I am continually informed about specific legislation pertaining to citizens nationwide and directly to those residing in Indiana’s 4th district. Everyday, I am challenged with tasks that stretch my developing liberal arts education. From drafting memos about specific issues or proposing additional questions for committee hearings, to giving Capitol building tours, listening and reading constituents’ calls, write-ins or emails/faxes addressing their concerns, I am always being tested as a writer, critical thinker and listener. Most days, my Intern Coordinator or a Legislative Assistant will assign me an interesting project. For example, I was assigned a project requiring me to review and propose additional questions on a budget hearing entitled the “President’s FY (Federal Year) 2015 Request for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism.” Congressman Rokita is a member of the House Budget Committee where the notable Congressman Paul Ryan serves as Chairman. For this project, I reviewed the briefing, proposed a few questions of my own and attended the hearing. At the hearing, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, the nation’s second highest-ranking military officer, Admiral James Winnefeld, along with other high-ranking federal officials were witnesses in a Q&A. These hearings, along with House Floor debates and intern guest lectures, like a recent talk by Majority-Leader Elect, Kevin McCarthy, are all among my favorite aspects of the internship.

 

A photo of the Capitol Building Crouch snapped after work one day

The Capitol Building, taken after work 

Cole Crouch Coons Grant 2014 3

St. Joseph’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I continue to work hard on the Hill, I also enjoy my summer in D.C. The sights, sounds and scenes are fantastic here! On the weekends, apart from being a sports fan constantly glued to the TV watching baseball and soccer, I have visited the zoo, monuments, memorials and museums. I watched the World Cup Final at a watch party with over 1,000 fellow soccer fans! I started attending church again at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral on Capitol Hill. The daily experiences are each so impressive and sensational. From savoring the jovial conversations with my professors and fellow Wallies at an early summer (yet so familiar/common student-faculty) dinner, to making new friendships with students from all walks of the country, there has been a seemingly unfair amount of networking and social sphere. Go figure. College is all about learning and doing more, right? Wabash College is not just about learning more and doing more but also NETWORKING more. In this town, knowing how to interact, as a gentleman, especially, has not gone unnoticed. Those Midwestern manners have not either. Wallies, always remember, “The student is expected to conduct himself at all times, both on and off campus, as a gentleman and a responsible citizen.”

Dr. Gelman, Crouch, and Dr. Drury after the networking dinner (not pictured: Dylan Miller '16 and Jacob Burnett '15, who also attended)

Dr. Gelman, Crouch, and Dr. Drury after the networking dinner (not pictured: Dylan Miller ’16 and Jacob Burnett ’15, who also attended)

Spending this summer in the nation’s capitol has been an honor and a life-changing experience that I am certain will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. I recognize this internship has enabled tremendous growth as a young professional and citizen. I know that the knowledge and skills learned will be increasingly more useful in the future. I am so grateful for Wabash College and her great opportunities like this one. I highly recommend future students interested in public policy or the government to apply for the Harold M. and Margaret R. Coons Public Service Internship Award. Applications are made available through the Wabash College Political Science Department. Additionally, I would recommend contacting Todd Rokita’s Office about opportunities regarding potential internships. My best wishes to all the other summer interns as they conclude their journeys and I look forward to seeing everyone this fall!

 

 

 

 

Miller ’16 Peace Corps in DC

Outside the Peace Corps Headquarters in Washinton, DC

Outside the Peace Corps Headquarters in Washinton, DC

Dylan Miller ’16 - This summer I have had the pleasure to intern at the Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC. Since first visiting DC in the summer of 2013, I made it my goal to spend a summer in our nation’s capital as one of the thousands of young summer interns. I was fortunate enough to land my internship through a Wabash alum, BJ Whetstine ’01, that I met while visiting DC over spring break. If you don’t know already, you’ll soon come to realize the value of being active in the Wabash community network.

Every morning I join the swarm of interns and professionals cramming into the metro trains on their way to work with a coffee in hand, a TED Talk on my iPod, and a tie around my neck. After beeping into the Peace Corps headquarters building with my nifty government-issued ID card, I join five fellow colleagues to work in the Staging and Staff Development Unit. Our office handles a plethora of issues essential to the Peace Corps’ noble mission of world peace and friendship. Before each new Peace Corps volunteer travels to their respective country of service, they undergo a “staging” in the United States that acts as an orientation to their country of service. Our office does all the background logistics such as booking plane tickets, booking hotels, coordinating staging event staff, and planning and running staging events.

A perk of working at the Peace Corps is getting to meet great people who work at Peace Corps HQ in DC and all over the country as recruiters. Most Peace Corps employees were Peace Corps volunteers themselves and have served all over the world.

Miller ’16: A perk of working at the Peace Corps is getting to meet great people who work at the HQ in DC and all over the country as recruiters. Most Peace Corps employees were Peace Corps volunteers themselves and have served all over the world.

Since working at the Peace Corps, I’ve gotten a great overview of how a federal agency operates. I was even able to attend a training conference in Norman, OK that all Volunteer, Recruitment, and Selection (VRS) employees within the Peace Corps agency attended. I was able to attend informative sessions about how to operate an official government agency social media account, diversity outreach, marketing and research, recruitment techniques, government agency purchasing power, customer service, and much, much more. I was even honored to hear the newly appointed Peace Corps director, Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

It has only been a month into my internship, but I can already tell that my skill set has grown and the knowledge and experience I have gained will carry through to future internship, career, professional, and educational ventures. I would like to thank BJ Whetstine ’01 for bringing me on as an intern and the Coonses for endowing this public service internship grant which allowed me to partake in this wonderful educational and professional development experience that I know will act as a vital building block in my growth as a successful professional and citizen.