Testifying in a federal murder trial wasn’t on Sandy Alcantara’s bucket list, but thanks to her Northeastern University co-op she found herself taking the stand.
Alcantara, a third-year criminal justice and business administration student, had been working for a few months in the violent and organized crime bureau of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York when a paralegal texted her, “I have a surprise for you, and it’s not a cookie.”
“She said, ‘Would you want to testify?’ and I was like, ‘Yes, of course I would,’” Alcantara recalls.
As a summary witness, Alcantara was tasked with confirming that several security videos of a Washington Heights robbery and homicide corroborated one another, providing factual standing for the U.S. attorney’s case. Although she was nervous walking into the courtroom, as soon as she took to the stand, the preparation she had done and knowledge she had accumulated during her time in the office kicked in.
“I did get crossed [cross-examined], which is kind of scary, but it was really easy,” Alcantara says.
Her experience in the courtroom that day was just one of many ways she saw the criminal justice system in action during her time as a co-op. She sat in on hearings, trials and meetings with witnesses and defendants who plead guilty, listened in on jail calls, examined subpoenaed phone records and even ran into U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in an elevator.