Pre-Conference Workshop IV

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Child Abuse Trial Advocacy Practicum

Presenting cases involving child victims at trial requires a specialized set of skills that are unique to child abuse cases.  The morning session of this full day trial advocacy practicum will focus on presenting child testimony at trial.  Attorneys from the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys’ Child Abuse Prosecution Project will discuss model practices when presenting child testimony in a jury trial.  Areas of discussion will include drafting proper questions in an effective and interesting manner, forming developmentally appropriate questions for children, common objections from defense, developing rapport with children, and practical tips on preparing the child for testifying. Participants will then each take turns practicing the direct examination of a child. 

The afternoon workshop will focus on the cross-examination of defense experts in child sexual abuse cases.  Participants will learn model practices regarding the cross-examination of defense experts.  Specific topics will include preparation for the cross-examination, researching the expert, analyzing the expert report, understanding common defense theories in child abuse cases, and cross-examination tips.  Participants will then conduct a simulated cross-examination of a defense expert by questioning the expert on relevant topics, while focusing their questions and maintaining control of the narrative.  Participants will receive feedback from attorneys with the Child Abuse Prosecution Project to assist in the development of their trial advocacy skills.


Mary-Ann Burkhart, JD, is the Director of the Child Abuse Prosecution Project at the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in Washington, DC.  APA provides training, technical assistance, support and cutting-edge written projects to multi-disciplinary child abuse teams.  She comes to APA from National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse at the National District Attorney’s Association, where she was the Director of the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.   Mary-Ann Burkhart began her legal career as an Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County, Florida.  As an Assistant under the Honorable Janet Reno, Ms. Burkhart specialized in domestic violence and child abuse cases.  In 1997, Ms. Burkhart joined the staff of the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse as a Senior Attorney. From 1997 through 2003, she traveled worldwide and taught extensively on all aspects of child physical and sexual abuse and child homicide cases.  As a Senior Attorney at NCPCA, she also published numerous articles and book chapters on various issues relating to investigating and prosecuting cases of child physical and sexual abuse, as well as issues relating to child victims.  Her last project as a Senior Attorney at NCPCA was editing and completing work on the 3rd edition of Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse, in which she also authored two chapters.  In late 2003, Ms. Burkhart returned to the courtroom as a homicide prosecutor and then as Training Director at the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Maryland.  As Training Director, she was responsible for the training and mentoring programs for the over 200 attorneys in the office.  Additionally, she continued to train nationally on issues related to Child Physical and Sexual Abuse and Neglect.  She also works as the Faculty Advisor to the ChildFirst Maryland course, a five-day forensic interviewing course for child victims and witnesses.   In 2008 Ms. Burkhart authored Maryland’s Response to Human Trafficking:  A New Statute for New Times, which was published in the Maryland Bar Journal.  In 2010, Ms. Burkhart took her expertise to the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office, where she specialized in child abuse cases and vulnerable adult and elder abuse cases.

Mary Sawicki, JD, is a senior attorney at the Association of Prosecuting Attorney’s Child Abuse Prosecution Project. In this position, Attorney Sawicki provides technical assistance, resources, and training on contemporary child abuse legal issues at local, state and national speaking engagements for child abuse prosecutors and allied professionals. Previously, Attorney Sawicki was a prosecutor for twenty- three years in the Worcester County, MA District Attorney’s Office. For a majority of those twenty-three years, Attorney Sawicki was the Chief of the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit, prosecuting and supervising the prosecution of crimes against children and persons with disabilities.  In addition, Attorney Sawicki was a Senior Attorney for the National District Attorneys Association’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse where her responsibilities included providing resources, assistance, and training to child abuse prosecutors and allied professionals nationally. Most recently, Attorney Sawicki was a Practitioner in Residence at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, MA teaching child welfare law and developing internship placements for law students in the child advocacy field.  Attorney Sawicki has authored several articles on current child abuse prosecution topics and co-authored two United States Supreme Court amicus briefs on child abuse prosecution confrontation clause issues. Attorney Sawicki is a recipient of the Access to Justice Prosecutor Award given by the Massachusetts Bar Association. She received her law degree from New England School of Law in Boston, MA.  

Edward Chase, JD, is a Senior Attorney with the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys’ Child Abuse Prosecution Project, where he facilitates training at the regional and national level, in addition to providing technical assistance to prosecutors and allied professionals across the country.  He is a former Chief Senior Assistant District Attorney with Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, GA.  He served as a supervisor in the Crimes Against Women and Children unit, prosecuting sexual offenses against adults and children, as well as child physical abuse cases.  Other assignments included the Major Case Division, the Public Integrity Unit, and the Domestic Violence Task Force.  Edward was a member of the Georgia Statewide Sexual Assault Response Team Expert Committee, formulating best practices for multidisciplinary teams responding to sexual abuse, and currently serves as a faculty member for the statewide SART training initiative. Edward has also served as a faculty member for programs with the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.  He is a recipient of the Lewis Slaton Highest Achievement Award from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, the Atlanta Bar Association Public Service Award, and the Monroe H. Freedman Excellence in Criminal Justice Award.  Prior to becoming a prosecutor, Edward served as an Assistant Public Defender.  That experience continues to allow for a unique perspective as a prosecutor on how to build stronger cases for trial.  He is also a graduate from National Criminal Defense College.  He received his law degree from Hofstra University, with a Criminal Law and Procedure concentration, and his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University. 

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