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Criminal Law Section, UF Law host Annual Gerald T. Bennett Prosecutor/Public Defender Trial Training Program

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Trial Training Program participants

Four students were honored during the 2023 Gerald T. Bennett Public Defender and Prosecutor Trial Training Program for embodying the mission, goals, and spirit of the program. Center, L–R: Stephen Kowalski, Seventh Circuit Office of the Public Defender; Rachel Anderson, Ninth Circuit Office of the Public Defender; Bryan Lawlor, 12th Circuit Office of the State Attorney; and Melanie Moulder, 13th Circuit Office of the Public Defender.

The Criminal Law Section hosted its Gerald T. Bennett Prosecutor/Public Defender Trial Training Program July 23–27 in Gainesville in conjunction with the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

The State of Florida provides legislative funding for the annual program, which has taken place since 1979. Prosecutors, judges, public defenders, and private criminal defense attorneys serve as faculty members. This year, 73 young attorneys from Public Defender and State Attorney offices around the state participated.

The attorneys practice giving opening, cross/direct, and closing statements and then watch their performances with experienced faculty members in one-on-one video review sessions. The program also includes segments on case analysis, preparation for jury selection, voir dire, professionalism and ethics, and forensic witnesses.

“The curriculum is designed to give attorneys a safe space to try new things, find out who they want to be in the courtroom, and learn from some of Florida’s top criminal law attorneys and judges,” said Criminal Law Section Chair Joe Spataro, the Florida Attorney General’s associate deputy attorney general for Criminal Justice Programs. “Networking is a key part of the program and is equally as important as classroom work.”

Four Barristers and a Kings Council from the South Eastern Circuit in England participated in the program, a traditional highlight of the event. This year’s KC, Peter Glenser of 7 Harrington Court Chambers, gave a cross examination of the witness in his full “kit”— wig and robes — and the Junior Barristers joined him in support.

The faculty chose four students who embody the mission, goals, and spirit of the Gerald T. Bennett Public Defender and Prosecutor Trial Training Program. They are Bryan Lawlor, assistant state attorney, 12th Circuit; Melanie Moulder, office of the public defender, 13th Circuit; Stephen Kowalski, office of the public defender, Seventh Circuit; and Rachel Anderson, office of the public defender, Ninth Circuit.

The longtime program chair, UF Law Professor Jennifer Zedalis, is retiring in November, and this was her last year as chair. Spataro presented her with thank-you flowers on the closing day of the program.

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