Monday, September 5, 2016

It all started on a 9th June. There was traffic. My bus was not moving. I was going to be late on my first day. Does it really have to happen that way? The bus finally dropped me off right in front of the main entrance of the office, I ran inside and jumped on the reception counter. After having introduced myself in a couple of seconds, I finally made it to floor one, and at the very moment I started sitting on one of the couches facing the lifts to wait to be picked up, I heard: “Are you here for an Amicus internship?” I turned my head and I saw a blonde girl sitting on one of those couches, who seemed to be as lost as I was. “Yes, I am! Are you?” Her name is Kate, and that was the start of our three-month adventure at Amicus!

The first task I was assigned was to respond to letters sent by inmates. Simple task some would say. But I quickly found it to be quite tricky. Some of the inmates asked for help, desperately trying to convince us in a few lines that they were innocent. I did not know if they were, and anyway, that was not the purpose of the correspondence. But it must be tough to be on death row, facing death on a daily basis if you truly haven't done anything, mustn't it? This is the dilemma that was going in my mind: trying to make the letter-drafting task fit into a professional environment in the context of the Art for Amicus event, when what I was dealing with was someone's life and cry for help. 

It is somewhat eye-opening to realise how much can go wrong in a capital case, specifically in the trial phase – in relation to questions of jury selection, race questions, lack of evidence, etc – but it is even more shocking to realise how much work is involved in fighting against those issues. It is not only about helping inmates on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they were and are given a fair trial, but it is also and mostly about conceptualising and setting up projects that put those issues under the spotlights. The most difficult work is to make this fight fashionable in a world that prefers to shut its eyes to the obvious, perhaps because of the significant role played by the US in economics, politics, culture, and diplomacy. 

Luckily, the atmosphere in the office offered a counter-weight to the mind-blowing realisation of how unfair justice can be. Not only was everyone friendly to one another, but there was constant banter going on in the office! One of the funniest moments was when Kate had just downloaded PokemonGo on her phone and all of sudden she shouted: “Oh my God, there is a Charmander on my laptop!” We all rushed to her desk to witness the capture of the newly discovered Pokemon. This was followed by a Pokemon hunt in the canteen of Baker & McKenzie, capturing Pokemons in front of a few vac schemers who had no idea of what was going on. 

We also developed our little office habits. Florence and Maroshini would usually go and pick up their lunches at the canteen, and at the very moment they would come back in our little office, the automatic question would always be whether today's salad was worth it—I would always get the salad anyway, regardless of whether it was a good one or not, rendering my question pretty useless... We also often discussed the drama surrounding our lives, including accommodation and friendship issues, as well as Brexit! Interning in the office is no more than joining a group of friends working together, making the experience an even more rewarding one!

My last day was on 1st September. I had to catch the Eurostar that evening in order for me to be in Paris the next morning to start university at La Sorbonne. But friends do not leave each other without taking the time to say goodbye, so we went for drinks! Now that I am in Paris, I have noticed that everything I have learned throughout the past three months is following me everywhere. It has changed the way I see things. I watched the “O.J. Made in America” documentary realising how much this case has been detrimental to the perception of racial equality in US criminal courts, and I can't prevent myself from making comments on how the death penalty system works when watching Dexter with my mum. I am so grateful to Amicus for having given me the opportunity to learn so much in a short amount of time, and I can't wait to come back to London to see Florence, Maroshini, and Kate again!