Gaining a Firsthand Perspective in Criminal Courts
Shana Weiner, Class of 2013
By the time Shana Weiner began her third year of law school, she’d already presented cases to grand juries in New Jersey and won a motion she’d argued in criminal court.
She was well on her way to fulfilling a longtime dream of prosecuting crimes against women and children and tackling domestic violence head on.
During her 3L summer, Shana completed a co-op placement with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey, where her experience included court appearances surrounding pleas, bail reviews and sentencing as well as arguing a motion that kept alive a drug possession charge that defense counsel sought to dismiss. In the process, lessons from Criminal Procedure class sprang to life.
“I loved that atmosphere,” she said, describing the intense environment inside the criminal court.
In the fall of her 3L year, Shana completed a second co-op placement with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where she handled domestic violence cases.
That experience gave Shana a firsthand perspective of the ways laws in different states can affect the prosecutor’s job. Pennsylvania’s preliminary hearings give defense counsel far more influence than New Jersey’s grand jury system, allowing them, for instance, to cross-examine complaining witnesses, Shana discovered.
Pennsylvania’s system places more hurdles before prosecutors, Shana said.
“It’s much more stressful for victims,” she said. “They don’t want to have to tell their story repeatedly.”