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Tales from the Internship

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By: Carmen James - CCR High Speed Steno Student

 

Carmen James photo1

 

Hello CCR family. I had an amazing opportunity during my internship that I would love to share with all of you.

 

On August 29th through the 31st I got to sit in on a very exciting trial in the Antrim County 13th Circuit Court in Bellaire, Michigan. Back in 2020, there was an attempted kidnapping of Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, by some militia groups located both locally and across other states. This was the trial of three of the men accused of being involved in that plot. Some people have already been tried and convicted, or acquitted, in different courts for the same case but these three defendants had just begun their trial.

 

I had previously done only depositions for my internship hours, as I plan on freelancing when I complete my schooling, so I count myself very fortunate to have this as my first experience in a trial setting. And let me tell you, it was a very different experience than a deposition.

 

I assumed that because I was shadowing the official reporter, that I would be sitting in the corner out of the way like I had for depositions. Nope! I sat right next to the official reporter, who was situated directly beneath the bench nearly in the center of the courtroom. I found myself in full view of the entire court, as well as the press, who were there recording for local television stations and internet livestreams. I certainly got a lot of practice maintaining my impassive ‘court reporter’ face!

 

It was an adjustment getting used to voices coming from all sides at variable volumes. The witness was to my far left, the judge was behind me, and counsel was both in front of me and to my right. This was a small, historic courthouse, so they did not have microphones that amplified sound throughout the room. A few times, individuals were asked to speak up or repeat themselves by the official reporter and the judge.

 

When I arrived on my first day, the trial had already been going on for a week but they were still on the State’s direct examination of their first witness: an FBI agent who specialized in domestic terrorism and was involved in the eventual arrests of many of the people involved. There were three defendants, and each defendant had his own defense counsel. That means that instead of four-voice, this was a seven-voice situation, sometimes more, as there was co-counsel for one defendant and three for the State.

 

The first day, there were many, many exhibits admitted onto the record and after each motion for admission, each defense attorney had the opportunity to object. This process went extremely fast. The judge would ask each attorney by name if they objected, and they would respond quickly. Usually, they would not object and instead say, “No objection, Your Honor,” but at times they chose to voir dire the witness or make objections. This really put my colloquy skills to the test.

 

The second day was a continuation of direct examination of the same witness, and then the cross-examination by each defense counsel. More exhibits were admitted. At times, the jury was excused so counsel could discuss on the record matters of an evidentiary nature and the judge would make rulings.

 

The third day was the re-direct and re-cross of the same witness, and then the second witness was called by the State. This was an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated the militia group. At this point, the cameras were turned off to protect his identity, but the audio was still being recorded for the media. Direct examination began, and the whole process started over again.

 

The testimony was fascinating, and the whole thing was a great experience. I had so much fun. Everyone at the courthouse was very kind to me and more than happy to answer my questions. These were long hours of continuous writing and a lot of quick back-and-forth. I was able to practice everything from inserting bench conference, in-chambers discussions, the arrival and dismissal of the jury, recesses, admission of exhibit parentheticals, to writing colloquy, voir dire, objections, and regular testimony. It was challenging, but the most challenging experiences are what make you stronger!

 

What helped prepare me the most, and what I suggest to other students would be: do the multi-voice recordings available on the course site. This will help prepare you for colloquy and inserting parentheticals. Second, know your software. Being able to set up EZ speakers and create global definitions really helped me out. Define your parentheticals. Get acquainted with fields, and timestamps. Third, do endurance practice. I was worn out after sitting all day in court but having endurance practice helped me maintain my focus for much longer. Fourth, don’t skimp on the speedbuilding. 225 words a minute, and faster, happens in real life, especially at trial. And finally, believe in yourself and don’t give up!

 

I never thought I would have the opportunity to sit in on a trial like this, especially as a student, but it just goes to show that you never know what sort of amazing opportunities may come up if you just keep going!

 

If you are interested in reading more about the case, here is a link:

 

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/men-accused-in-plot-to-kidnap-michigan-gov-whitmer-wanted-to-start-a-civil-war-prosecutor-says

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Guest Friday, 23 February 2024

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Tales from the Internship

By: Carmen James - CCR High Speed Steno Student

 

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    Tales from the Internship

    By: Carmen James - CCR High Speed Steno Student     Hello CCR family. I had an amazing opportunity during my internship that I would love to share with all of you.   On August 29th through the 31st I got to sit in on a ve ...

    by Natalie Kijurna
    Wednesday, 15 November 2023
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