For the seventh year, the Texas District and County Attorneys Association (TDCAA) held its advanced trial advocacy skills course at Baylor Law School. Beginning Monday, Aug. 9, 42 participants gathered at the law school to attend lectures and work on their courtroom skills. The course ended at noon Friday, Aug. 13.
All the participants had between three and five years experience as prosecutors. During the week, they attended lectures on a variety of topics, including issues of indictment, jury selection, behavioral evidence, new technologies, opening statement strategies, dealing with experts, direct and cross examinations and closing arguments, among others.
Participants then broke into groups for practice in one of the Law School's four courtrooms. During this time, students were critiqued on their skills by highly experienced prosecutors who serve as faculty during the week. Local nurses, forensics experts and others from the McLennan County acted the part of witnesses. County residents and Baylor Law students served as the jury.
"We try to make the experience as real as possible," said Erik Nielsen, training director for the TDCAA. "At least two faculty advisors are in each courtroom, and they critique the participants after each session."
Every two years, the course focuses on a different type of felony case. This year and next year, the seminar will focus on child sexual assault cases. Previous topics have been sexual assault cases, homicide cases and narcotics cases.
Speakers at this year's course were W. Clay Abbott, DWI Resource Prosecutor for the TDCAA; Jennifer Bassett, assistant criminal district attorney in Lubbock; Jack K. Choate, assistant criminal district attorney for Walker County; Robert Darin Darby, assistant district attorney for Harris County; Eric H. Devlin, assistant district attorney for Harris County; Leticia Martinez, assistant criminal district attorney for Tarrant County; Stephanie Emaline McFarland, assistant district attorney for Travis County; Alana K. Minton, assistant criminal district attorney for Tarrant County; Denise Oncken, assistant district attorney for Harris County; Dan Powers, clinical director for the Collin County Children's Advocacy Center; Tammy Jean Thomas, assistant district attorney for Harris County; Michelle Voirin, assistant criminal district attorney for Collin County; Rainey Webb, assistant criminal district attorney for Tarrant County; and Nielsen. Serving as course directors were E. Christy Jack, assistant criminal district attorney for Tarrant County, and Hillary S. Netardus, assistant criminal district attorney for Randall County.