Thursday, October 29, 2015
I've recently been talking with a couple of students who have offers to work as either prosecutors or defense attorneys upon their graduation from law school. They're both interning/externing and working on misdemeanor cases. This is great experience for when they graduate and will be working on felony cases, including murder cases. Talking with one of these students yesterday made me realize something that I should have realized a long time ago: The people given the primary responsibilities in preparing Adnan's murder trial were law students.
I think I had seen this mentioned in one of the trial transcripts, but it never really registered. Until yesterday, I had always assumed that the law clerks working on Adnan's case were full time clerks. Usually, I would refer to law students working at firms as interns or an externs because they're juggling that responsibility with all of their classes and other extracurricular obligations.
After talking with the student, I looked into the two primary clerks working on Adnan's case. One was the clerk who met with Adnan in prison more than any other clerk. The other was the clerk put in charge of Adnan's alibi defense. They both graduated from law school in May 2000. I know this because I found briefs from an odd case in which a law student sued his law school and some of the deans and professors, claiming that he was suspended in early 2000 on the false and unsubstantiated accusation that he was a danger to faculty and students. Two of these accusations came from the two clerks from Adnan's case.
As with the lawsuit I discussed on Tuesday, I don't know whether this lawsuit had any merit, and the merit of the lawsuit is not really the point. The point is that the brief shows these law clerks were law students. The other point is that one law student was the primary source of communication with Adnan, and another law student was in charge of his alibi defense. These weren't attorneys.* They weren't full-time, or even what I would regard as part-time, employees. They were law students who, at least during the school year, probably went to Gutierrez's firm once or twice a week for a few handfuls of hours. After working on the case, and/or the other seven murder cases Gutierrez was handling in 1999-2000, they would have returned to their law school, worked on law review, prepared for class, attended class, etc.
This is not what I would call ideal representation, through no fault of the law students themselves.
*The attorney who likely would have handled these issues departed from the firm soon before Gutierrez started representing Adnan.