Last week I went to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan (PAAM) summer intern boot camp. This conference was intended to teach interns the basics of trial practice. The boot camp’s combination of lecture and trial exercises did successfully introduce me to trial in a way that was both entertaining and informative.
One insight a Wayne County (contains Detroit) prosecutor shared when instructing was that direct and cross-examination are exercises in “herding cats.” This metaphor stuck in my head both for its humor, and for the fact that it soon proved itself to be true.
Before becoming an intern at a prosecutor’s office, I imagined myself working in many capacities, but never as a cat wrangler. The PAAM exercises soon proved the metaphor correct. My witnesses made unexpected statements at inappropriate times, equivocated, shaded the truth, flat-out lied, and were generally difficult. At points, it felt like cross-examination resulted in making our cases worse, rather than impeaching the defendant’s credibility. And this was for good reason – we were questioning prosecutors with dozens of years of trial experience, acting out difficulty-prone fact patterns. The exercise taught us using some of the most difficult facts we could be exposed to this summer.
Though I am certainly not yet proficient at cat herding, I have certainly laid good groundwork. I cannot wait until I can try it in the courtroom.