These are just a few of the questions posed by 19 high school students visiting the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office as a part of the Gwinnett County State Court S.M.I.L.E. Program. While the students didn’t see any bodies, Dr. Carol Terry, Gwinnett County’s Chief Medical Examiner, along with Investigator Eddie Reeves, gave personal accounts of their death investigations and use of forensic pathology at Gwinnett County’s morgue. This is just one of the many opportunities that S.M.I.L.E. Gwinnett participants will experience this summer.
The S.M.I.L.E. Gwinnett Program, which stands for “Summer Mentoring in Legal Education”, allows students to interact with various legal professionals including attorneys, judges, and law enforcement and to see how the legal system works firsthand. Over the course of this summer, students in the program have the opportunity to tour the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center and the county jail, learn and practice trial skills, and observe courtroom proceedings.
The summer kicked off with a lunch-and-learn about victim’s rights in the criminal justice system hosted by Gwinnett County Solicitor General, Rosanna Szabo, followed by a learning day covering the trial process and ending with a mock trial.
“If you are genuinely concerned for the future of our community, be a mentor,” says Szabo. “It’s one of the best ways to use your time and talent to influence that future. You will get much more in return than you give. It’s a privilege to be a part of the S.M.I.L.E. team of mentors, and from what I’ve seen of these students, our future is bright.”
Over the summer, S.M.I.L.E. students will interact with a panel of judges from Municipal Court, Recorder's Court, Juvenile Court, State Court and Superior Court as they discuss their legal careers and how they got the bench, learn about varying fields of law from local attorneys, and see live demonstrations from local law enforcement agencies. The students also have the opportunity to read about and research the case of Dr. Barton Corbin, convicted of murdering his wife in Gwinnett County and to speak with key players from that case.
This summer marks the third year that Gwinnett County State Court has offered the free S.M.I.L.E. program to local high school students who aspire to be judges and attorneys themselves one day. State Court Judges Pam South and Joseph Iannazzone started the S.M.I.L.E Gwinnett program in 2016 along with South Gwinnett High School teacher Rebecca Streetman, a program specialist for Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security; and Dana Pagán, a Gwinnett County Assistant Solicitor and former teacher at Central Gwinnett High School. This year, Magistrate Judge Kim Gallant joins the S.M.I.L.E. faculty to help provide a first-rate experience to program participants. The program is open to local high school students with an interest in careers in the legal field.
Students interested in participating in the future can refer to smilegwinnettcounty.com for more information about the program and the application process.