By Robert Florida
Every summer, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office offers a legal internship for undergraduates and law students. For eight weeks, the interns are placed in various units such as homicide, crime scene, and financial crimes, where they get inside views of how a prosecutor’s office functions. They help prosecutors prep for hearings and attend trials, and establish rapport with judges, assistant prosecutors, and defense lawyers relationships that further their careers.
“Many interns have been hired as assistant prosecutors in Essex and other counties,” says Ahmad Rasool, the Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor who manages the program. “It’s a great opportunity for undergraduates and law students who want to work in prosecution and law enforcement.”
And that’s just what Chijioke Achebe, an intern who attends Georgetown, intends to do. Here, Achebe talks about his interest in prosecution, and details what he learned during his internship in the homicide unit of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
What were the highlights of your summer internship?
The most fascinating experience of my internship was observing an autopsy; this was at the Medical Examiner’s Office. I suppose that comes with the territory when you intern in the homicide unit. I also got to work on briefs and motions and to watch court hearings. I assisted detectives and prosecutors, including listening to witness interviews, reviewing evidence, and observing homicide trials.
The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office is the largest and busiest in the state, but any time I had a question the detectives and prosecutors brought me up to speed. Among other things, what I liked about this internship was that I was able to do whatever I was interested in. It was a valuable learning experience.
Can you talk a bit about your background?
I grew up in West Orange, where I attended public elementary and middle schools. For high school, I attended Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts. I was student president and a speaker at graduation. My family lives in Essex County, which makes the work this office does all the more meaningful. Every single thing this prosecutor’s office does, no matter how small the task, helps get criminals off the street. That’s very important work.
What’s your college and major, and what do you intend to do after you graduate?
I’m a sophomore at Georgetown University, majoring in international politics. I’m also a student senator, where I help allocate over a million dollars to student groups. After I graduate, I hope to attend law school and join the Navy as a JAG (Judge Advocate General’s Corps), which means I’d practice law as a naval officer. After that, I might work as a prosecutor. Being an intern at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office heightened my interest in prosecution.
You share a surname with the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, author of the classic novel, “Things Fall Apart.” Any relation?
I’m proud to say that he was my great uncle. Along with being a great novelist and memoirist, he was a deeply ethical man who cared about politics and improving society. A few Nigerian presidents offered him awards, for example, but he refused to accept them. He thought the leaders were corrupt and wanted no part of them. I suspect I inherited his political and ethical sensibility, and his will to make the world a better and safer place.
I understand your internship ended on a high note.
Indeed. On the last day of my internship, I got to meet with Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II, a prominent and gracious man. We talked for a while in his office, and he took a personal interest in me. Meeting and talking with Prosecutor Stephens was an endearing way to end a great internship.