Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia (PAC) presented its annual Basic Litigation Training Course from June 23-29, 2007 in Forsyth, Georgia at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC). Fifty-three newly hired prosecutors from across the state participated in an intensive six-day seminar. The course is devoted to in-depth lecture sessions as well as workshops that give prosecutors with little or no courtroom experience an opportunity to hone their skills.
Dana M. Eller, assistant solicitor for the State Court of Richmond County, completed this year's training. Eller has been an assistant solicitor for 10 months in the office of Solicitor-General Harold Jones. She is the daughter of Helga Eller and Joe Washburn of Augusta, Georgia. Eller graduated from Evans High School , Georgia Military College in 1992, Brenau University in 1993, and John Marshall Law School-Atlanta in 1999. Eller was also a part time teacher for several years with Paine College, teaching Business Law I and II and Criminology.
"I decided to become a prosecutor after I completed an internship during my last year in law school with then State Court Solicitor, Sheryl Jolly," said Eller. She is the first female Superior Court Judge in Augusta , Georgia. She is a mother, teacher, prosecutor, and now Judge. She is an inspiration to me."
At the Basic Litigation course, students are taught by seasoned prosecutors who serve as faculty members and use their years of experience to train and educate the less experienced prosecutors. A new prosecutor can learn how to deal with defense attorneys, defendants, and just different types of cases that seem to be unusual. The combination works well because it helps a new prosecutor feel comfortable knowing that there are many things that can happen in court and how to deal with them. Faculty members place a significant emphasis on the development of "Theory" and "Theme" based prosecution. And, with a faculty to student ratio of nearly 1-to-1, the Basic Litigation Course conducted in Georgia continues to be one of the most effective courses of its kind.
During the week-long training, students attended lectures and workshops on legal subjects such as: opening statements, direct examination, introduction of evidence, use of demonstrative aids, cross examination and impeachment, hearsay, motions, similar transactions and character evidence, expert witness, and closing arguments. The course culminated in a mock trial conducted in front of a volunteer jury.
"The easiest part of training was cross examination," said Eller. "Cross examination is a great way to put emphasis on the evidence that helps your case. The hardest part; however, was direct exam because leading questions are hard to break. I thought closing was the most challenging because it the last thing that a jury hears and you want to make sure they understand what the person is charged with and the elements the state has proved throughout the trial. This training has really opened up new avenues for me," said Eller. "I now think about cases more in depth before they are even set for trial."
"This course has also increased my confidence," said Eller. "I am more focused on projecting my voice and making sure the jury understands the trial instead of worrying about how nervous I look."
Eller also explained how knowledge AND hands-on experience are both critical to a prosecutor's success. "Law school prepares students for the practice of law by teaching you how our justice system started and why it has changed," said Eller. "Hands-on experience started my last year in law school. I did my first jury trial and several bench trials while doing an internship in State Court. In addition, this course has strengthened the skills I've acquired since my internship. Basic Litigation Training helps a new prosecutor break down what needs to be done into smaller sections so you do not feel overwhelmed. It shows you how to look at a case and evaluate whether it is a good case to try, what is needed for trial, how to interview witnesses, and how to conduct yourself as a professional in court," said Eller.
The Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia presents its Basic Litigation Training Course to new prosecutors every June.