I met Elliott a year ago at a conference in New Orleans. The thirty-two year old prosecutor has made a career out of trying high profile cases in the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office — and still has time to win mother of the year award. (Her nine-year old stepdaughter, Kara, gives her this award every year.) She became a household name when she prosecuted Anthony Harris aka Punk Li, the rapper convicted for the murder of his girlfriend.
Her motto: Believe in what you do, do what you believe.
LL: Welcome to the literarylawyer and thank you for joining my blog. Tell us what your featured blogs will be.
EJ: I’m doing a weekly segment that I’m calling: Spotlight on America’s Dumbest Criminals. In that feature, I’ll include videos of some of the most outrageous things criminals do.
LL: Ohh, I’ve seen some of those. Sometimes you wonder what these people were thinking. What do you have in store for us?
EJ: Ahhh — I’m not giving anything away. You’ll just have to tune in and see.
LL: You’ve been in the Orleans Parrish DA’s office for four years now. What’s it like being a prosecutor?
EJ: It’s a big responsibility but it’s satisfying to be able to help people and make the streets safe. You never want to put an innocent person in jail, but you never want a guilty person to go free either. I’m sure you can relate.
LL: That I can. What do you like most about your job?
EJ: I enjoy the challenge of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together, figuring out what really happened between the victim and the defendant, and how to make arguments that will persuade a jury. There’s a creative side to what we do, coming up with a theory, making a legal argument and then finding the authority to support it.
LL: What’s a typical day like for you?
EJ: The first thing I must have every morning is my coffee. I take it black. After that, anything goes. No two days are exactly alike. If I don’t have to make a court appearance, I’m prepping for court. I study my casefiles, I do research, interview witnesses, visit crime scenes. I usually come into the office between 6:00 am and 6:30 am and put in 10-12 hours, easily. If I’m on trial, the workday is a little more intense–I work around the clock. My mind never rests.
LL: I followed the Punk Li case, I thought you were an awesome trial attorney. Do you ever get nervous trying a case?
EJ: After so many, you wouldn’t think so. I still get butterflies in my stomach. But once I get going, I forget about all of that.
LL: Tell us something that happened behind the scenes when you prosecuted Punk Li?
EJ: Hmm. Let me think. Well – my investigator and I got a lead on where a witness was hiding out. The witness lived under a house –
LL: You mean in the basement of a house?
EJ: No. She lived UNDER a house. There was a trap door that led to a crawl space and that’s where she lived. She had dragged a mattress under there, she had books set up on make shift shelves, a chair, her medications were neatly lined up in a row on a pipe. She had made it her home.
LL: No way.
EJ: It’s true. She was paying rent to the homeowner to live there. We had just come from calendar call when we got the lead. And there we were tromping about in the mud – me in a suit and heels trying to interview the witness who lived in a crawl space. Oh, and it was the dead of summer so it was hot, bugs were in full force and they made a meal out of me that day.
LL: Yikes! Did she testify?
EJ: She wasn’t the lynchpin witness, but her testimony was pretty compelling.
LL: Why do you want to do this blog?
EJ: I think it will be great to take a break from the doom and gloom of what we do as prosecutors. I’ve been following your blog and it’s pretty dark. Cannibalism? Eye Tatts?
LL: [Laughing] You’re right. It is a little dark.
EJ: So I thought, why not show some humor in what we do. I’ve never blogged before, so I think it’ll be fun. So let’s have some fun!
LL: Thanks Elliott for joining me here. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for us.
Look for Elliott to make her guest debut blog Friday, April 26, 2013.
The Fine Print: Elliott James steps out of the pages of my debut novel and onto the pages of my blog.