Trial Assistant Prosecutors and Detectives assigned to the Trial Section work in teams, consisting of three Prosecutors and two Detectives for each of the 15 criminal trial courts in Essex County. The Trial Assistant Prosecutors work closely with their assigned Detectives, who interview witnesses, prepare reports, take statements, schedule witness interviews, visit crime scenes, take photographs, locate evidence and reports from municipal police departments, serve subpoenas, and take any other additional investigative steps as required.
Since 2004 the prosecution system for criminal cases has followed the “vertical” model. Previously, the bulk of criminal cases traveled through various specialized case-preparation and screening sections before reaching the Grand Jury and Trial sections. The vertical model, by contrast, combines these functions into a single prosecution unit (the Adult Trial Section) which handles its own cases through the arrest, pre-indictment, Grand Jury, and trial stages. Each Assistant Prosecutor in the Section must handle the case from pre-indictment preparation, then present his or her own cases to the Grand Jury and remain primarily responsible for subsequent plea negotiations, trial presentation, and sentencing. When the same prosecutor and investigator continue with a case, the Program not only encourages efficiency, it also enhances accountability and permits a better response to victims and witnesses.
The Adult Trial Section continued to handle the largest and most serious caseload in the State. Essex County leads the State in the number of criminal filings and handles a higher-than-average proportion of first and second-degree offenses. All first and second-degree crimes of violence require mandatory periods of parole ineligibility, making disposition of these offenses more difficult.
The Trial Section continues its emphasis on mentorship and training for its Trial Assistant Prosecutors. The Unit coordinates with all elements of the investigation process, especially given the increasing levels of distrust and hesitancy to cooperate on the part of victims and witnesses stemming from intimidation and threats of violence from organized street crime elements. Increased and more effective use of forensic evidence is also a priority for the Trial Section, as to ensure that justice is achieved in Essex County.