April 14, 2014 | Volume XXI, Issue 14

Panel features Anthony prosecutor and Zimmerman attorney

Published: November 18th, 2013

Category: News

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Jeff Ashton (JD 80), prosecutor in the Casey Anthony trial, left, and Mark O’Mara, defense attorney for George Zimmerman, visited UF Law Oct. 23 as part of the Introduction to Lawyering class. (Photo by Javier Edwards)

By Kelcee Griffis (4JM)

When a Casey Anthony prosecutor and George Zimmerman’s defense attorney visited UF Law, students in Professors Amy Mashburn and Jennifer Zedalis’ Introduction to Lawyering class got to ask tough questions for candid answers.

Jeff Ashton (JD 80), who prosecuted Anthony and published a book about the case, and Mark O’Mara, who defended Zimmerman against second-degree murder charges, spoke as part of a panel on Oct. 23.

The other two panelists were Renee Roche (JD 84) and Frederick Lauten, both circuit court judges with Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit.

Zedalis said students asked questions about sensitivity to racial issues in criminal cases, how to work with opposing attorneys and how to handle adverse public feelings toward clients.

“The students really wanted to know about those difficult issues – issues that call for courage,” she said.

She said the panelists rewarded the students’ probing questions with frank answers, which gave students insight into what they can expect to deal with in the future workforce.

“All four of our speakers were down to earth,” Zedalis said. “They answered questions candidly. They didn’t hold back. They had a sense of humor. In that sense, students got to see real lawyers who deal with real issues.”

Mashburn, who organized the panel, said one theme the speakers talked about was moving forward with their duties in the face of negative public opinions.

“One important point made was that as lawyers, our professional role requires us to do things that may be difficult and unpopular,” she said, “but we are required to represent our clients zealously, and this does not constitute a personal endorsement of the client’s actions or beliefs.”

After the panel, she said, students mentioned the judges gave practical advice about behaviors to avoid in the courtroom. For example, they coached students to not ask a judge “Are you mad at me?”

They also discussed “finding an area of law practice that will allow (students) to achieve an appropriate work-life balance,” she said.

Zedalis said the speakers also projected a positive image of what students can look forward to as future law professionals.

“It was obvious that they got an enormous satisfaction out of what they do every day,” she said, “and I think it’s great for students to see that.”

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