Texas Prosecutors At Baylor Law School For Advanced Trial Course

  • News Photo 2122
    Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler conducts a jury selection demonstration at the Advanced Trial Advocacy Course taking place this week at Baylor?s Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center.
  • News Photo 2123
    Mark Donnelly, an assistant district attorney from Houston, makes an opening statement to the jury.
Aug. 10, 2004

by Alan Hunt

It's "back to school" this week for more than 70 prosecutors from across Texas who are attending an Advanced Trial Advocacy Course at Baylor Law School's Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center.

Sponsored by the Austin-based Texas District & County Attorneys Association (TDCAA), the week-long program will focus upon child and adult sexual abuse and assault prosecution and is designed for prosecutors with at least moderate experience in this area, said Robert Kepple, the association's executive director.

Kepple said through courtroom presentations, demonstrations, and directed workshops, the program faculty will guide the participants through two detailed felony case scenarios addressing many challenges that have or soon will arise in their work as experienced prosecutors. He said participants also are required to perform an opening statement, a direct examination of a witness, and closing arguments on both guilt/innocence and punishment on one of the two sexual assault cases scenarios. The participants' courtroom presentations are videotaped and later critiqued.

This is the first time Baylor Law School has hosted the conference and Kepple said the Umphrey Law Center seemed "tailor-made" for the association's conference requirements. "We are most impressed by this fine facility," he said.

Kepple said the program participants are from district and county attorneys offices all over Texas - as far away as El Paso, Brownsville, and Hereford. Local prosecutors attending include Assistant Criminal District Attorney Beth Toben, wife of Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben; Assistant Criminal District Attorney Mark Edward Parker of Waco; Assistant Criminal District Attorney William E. Price of Corsicana; and Assistant Criminal District Attorney Laurie Manske of Waco. Toben and Parker are serving among the 15 faculty advisors during the program. Also taking part in the program are jurors from this week's McLennan County jury pool.

Other faculty advisors include Kelly Siegler, a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Houston, who successfully prosecuted a Harris County woman for murdering her husband during a widely publicized trial earlier this year. The woman was alleged to have stabbed her husband more than 180 times.

Siegler, a veteran of more than 150 trials, was named one of the Lone Star State's best lawyers by the Texas Lawyer publication. The prosecutor was also featured in a National Law Journal article last year on top, under-40 litigators.

The TDCAA program will conclude at noon Friday, following a courtroom session on "Closing Argument on Punishment." Kepple said each prosecutor will perform a 10-minute closing argument on punishment for one of the sexual assault case scenarios. The program faculty will critique each participant's live and videotaped performance.

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