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A glimpse into the life of a Honolulu prosecuting attorney during Prelaw Society’s first forum with a prosecutor

Members of the BYU–Hawaii Prelaw Society gather for a forum with Scott Bell, a deputy prosecuting attorney for the county of Honolulu.

Scott Bell, a deputy prosecuting attorney for the county of Honolulu, shared the reality of his job by presenting a murder case on May 29 in the Heber J. Grant Building. Despite the hundreds of hours one commits to their job as a lawyer, Bell said one can be a lawyer and also be an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“[Being a] lawyer is what I do during the night and morning, but it's not who I am,” Bell explained. “I've had the opportunity to try my best to be husband and father and serve in the Church. I can assure all of you if you pursue the law, then you can have a family life and [be a] providing yet understanding spouse.”

The forum was hosted by the BYU–Hawaii Prelaw Society, and students expressed they learned valuable information not found in the classroom.

Andrew Miller, a senior from Nevada studying business management, said he appreciated Bell’s honesty regarding how one needs to prepare if they want to become a prosecuting attorney.

“I was interested in the fact that he was able to have a family and still be in a job that people consider difficult to have a family. It really inspires me that even if I do choose that path, I can still have my desires, my goals and my personal life.”

According to Bell, students must ask themselves if they see themselves practicing law upon graduation. He added students must have a strong desire to be a lawyer so they can commit to dedicating their time to studying and serving others while on the job.

Bell gave a list of four things students can do to prepare for law school:

1.    Read extensively.

2.    Learn to think critically.

3.    Learn to write persuasively.

4.    Develop strong communication skills.

He defined a critical thinker as someone who is “prepared to reexamine their position and to reconsider their beliefs, see others perspectives and prepare to argue the other side.”

Bell said this does not necessarily mean one should abandon their beliefs, but “you have to be prepared to reexamine what you believe to be true.”

As a prosecutor, you are a servant of the law, shared Bell. “It is as much his or her duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about justice,” he explained.

Zabrina Bateh, a sophomore from Washington studying political science and intercultural studies, shared a quote from Bell which stood out to her, “The law is to serve justice so that the guilty shall not escape nor the innocents suffer.”

During the other half of the lecture, Bell presented a murder case which happened in Hawaii in 2013. He gave students a warning before he showed pictures from the case, saying the images could cause discomfort for anyone not used to seeing evidence from such situations.

When asked whether the case scared them, Bateh said she was not too scared since she liked listening to crime cases. She explained, “It still does get to a point where I do feel sad, but I've learned over the years to have a separation, but I still can see them as human beings.”

Mafe De Guzman, a junior from the Philippines studying elementary education and political science, said she liked the case as it “opened students’ eyes to what kind of world they will be in if they plan on being a lawyer or prosecutor.”

Bell explained he did not include the pictures for the “shock value,” but “to illustrate for [students] the nature of the work I have as a trial attorney and to give [students] a better understanding of the case.”

Kimo Burgess, a junior from Hawaii studying political science and a Prelaw Society officer, said this was their first time having a prosecutor as a speaker for one of their forums.

He remarked, “These kinds of events are important because it offers a broader perspective in career choices for people who are beginning to take law classes or who are thinking of going to law school in the future.”

Writer: Esther Insigne