9Should You Consider a Career in Law or Criminal Justice?

One of the most eye-opening experiences of my (Shaun's) life was sitting for five weeks on a District of Columbia grand jury, hearing testimony for over fifty felony cases, including fifteen homicides. It was depressing and harrowing, yet it provided a rare look inside the criminal justice system of a major urban area. I learned that most prosecutors work weekends to keep up with their never-ending caseloads and that murder cases can drag on for years before an indictment, much less an actual trial. I sat aghast as a convicted murderer described how his entire neighborhood used technology like Facebook to quickly spread the word that he was testifying against another member of the neighborhood, so he would now be marked for death if he ever returned. I learned that most cases depend on old-fashioned eyewitness accounts, grainy video camera footage without magical zoom-in capabilities, and basic detective work, not ingenious crime scene investigators or eccentric computer hackers. I learned that it can take months to get fingerprint or DNA results and the important difference between concepts like “probable cause” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.” And I witnessed an endless cycle of crime poisoning a community with heartbreaking poverty, unemployment, incarceration, absent parents, drugs, and fear. Serving on a jury isn't like it's made out to be in the movies.

Few other career fields capture the public imagination more ...

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