The second week at NCSC International has flown by. The week began with a trip to the Supreme Court of the United States, which involved lunch, a private lecture, and a tour. My fellow intern Xiang did a great job detailing the visit through photos, and I recommend you check out her blog post on the visit. In the past week, I was also able to sit down with our internship supervisor and we went over goals and objectives for the internship throughout the summer. Part of the sit-down involved an explanation of learning sessions. The fellow interns and I will be participating in “learning sessions” throughout the summer to help supplement the knowledge we gain throughout the daily work at the office. Definitely be sure to watch out for more info on learning sessions as the summer continues.
For this blog post, I want to describe the type of work NCSC International does and the projects it regularly works on. I feel the best way to illustrate NCSC International’s mission is by explaining my first assignment that I completed at the end of the second week.
On my very first day, a project manager assigned Xiang and I to work on preparing judicial training modules. The training modules will be used by the United State Department of State to prepare judges across the globe as they transition from an inquisitorial to an adversarial legal system. The specific module that I worked on involved the use of forensic evidence in criminal proceedings.
Because the project, although international, is funded by the Department of State, I grew familiar with how forensic science is used in the United States court system and then synthesized that information into education materials like training manuals, slideshows, and handouts. While some days felt like I was in an episode of Law & Order: SVU, I was able to learn information that might have been a bit too dense for a television show. For example, I gained experience reading and applying the Federal Rules of Evidence, and I also was read literature on the limitations of scientific evidence, proving that not everything that comes out of a forensic science lab is a silver bullet for the prosecution.
One example of the limits of scientific evidence involves blood samples in DUI cases. Little did I know that there are two ways that blood can be tested for its blood alcohol content: by its entire components (called “legal blood”) or by its separate components (called “medical blood”). Specifically, medical blood separates the solid and liquid parts of blood, and medical blood tests usually involve the serum or plasma, which likely result in a higher blood alcohol content test result than if the blood’s entire components had been tested. Basically, the lesson of this story is that judges must be able to recognize when common scientific distinctions like between “legal blood” and “medical blood” are made in order to make sure evidence is admitted fairly. NCSC actually prepared a brief on this topic, titled “All Blood is not the Same” that you can check out here.
Xiang and I were able to both finish our work on the training modules by our deadline, and our project manager sent the work products for review at the Department of State. In a few weeks we will get some revisions, but it felt great to have a major accomplishment so early during the internship. By helping with international judicial training, I feel as though I am helping to make an impact on improving the rule of law in other countries.