Sweating the Details
William Booth, Class of 2020
For William Booth, law school is all about developing tools that will allow him to serve the public. He’d spent part of his undergraduate days as an intern with the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives and later got a paying job with then-Rep. Javier Bacera of California (now the state’s attorney general).
As a law student, Booth is most intent on learning how to prosecute criminal cases. His co-op placement in the Office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is giving him firsthand experience with the process, from accompanying assistant AGs seeking judicial signatures on search warrants and electronic interception orders to assembling affidavits for probable cause, drafting a memo on evidence and conducting research on a defendant’s prior bad acts.
He went to Hershey to observe a supervisor training police about wiretap law in Pennsylvania and watched the trial of a husband charged in the murder of his wife some 40 years ago.
“The way she died was suspicious, but they couldn’t prove how she died,” Booth said. “There was a lot of circumstantial evidence.”
Though the man was acquitted, Booth said, the prosecutors had done something important by giving the victim’s family a day in court, decades after the case had gone cold.
“The juries in Perry County tend to be very anti-government,” Booth added. “It’s easy to argue malicious prosecution. It’s a high burden. That’s how it goes.”
Starting as a 2L, Booth was selected for the Trial Team, another opportunity to develop skills that will serve him in the courtroom. And he is spending his 2L summer completing an internship with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.
Yet Booth said he’s also been able to develop both insights and skills inside the classroom, since Professor Donald Tibbs required students in Criminal Law to stand up in class and argue motions. The class also shined a spotlight on the ways that police can make mistakes and how vigilant prosecutors must be.
“The big takeaway is how important it is to be detail-oriented,” Booth said. “It’s the paperwork that goes with respecting people’s rights.”