Sean Moore

If you’d asked people who knew me before law school if I’d be a criminal defense attorney, a good chunk probably would’ve said yes. If you’d asked those who know me DURING law school—when I interned at two different offices for the State of Indiana—if I’d end up as a criminal defense attorney, that number would’ve gone down drastically. So why did I join the Criminal Defense Team?

Early Life and Influences

Let’s jump back to my youth, to age 7ish to 12ish Sean, who was living in New Jersey. A quick aside: I’m from the east coast. I was born and raised in southern New Jersey about 20 minutes southeast of Philly. I miss the ocean, prefer pro sports to college sports, and love hockey. But since I moved to southern Indiana at age 14, I’ve grown quite fond of college football and basketball, and I’m told my “accent” is basically gone. So when people ask where I’m from, I proudly say New Jersey and Indiana.

My dad was an attorney who worked in a variety of areas, but family law and criminal defense were his two most common practices. I learned a lot from watching him do both. From his family law practice, I learned that incidents are rarely black and white, and rarely is one person completely right. I also learned other things, like how and how not to treat people. Regarding criminal law, my dad always had skepticism of law enforcement. While I think he may have been a little overreactive to a few bad cops and I never developed that level of cynicism, the seeds for not accepting as gospel what authority figures said were planted.

I enjoyed journalism in high school, where I had a column in the school newspaper where I weighed in on various topics. I went to IU Bloomington with the idea that I’d go into journalism, hoping to report on current events and politics. However, I quickly learned that I didn’t have the mindset and, honestly, the motivation required to make it as a reporter. So I graduated IU with degrees in political science and journalism, a minor in math, and not a ton of direction. Also around this time, I had a few people (counselors, parents, friends) asking what I thought about going to law school.

Life and Career After Undergrad

After college, I worked as the public relations, website manager, media guy, scorekeeper/stat guy, jack-of-all-trades for the Dubois County Bombers, a minor league baseball team in Huntingburg. This was a fun, tiresome job where I learned to juggle multiple responsibilities at once as well as continued to hone my communication skills. I followed that by working on a political campaign in what was probably the most grueling and rewarding job of my life up to that point, managing a field office working 7 days per week—with the “short” day being noon to 8 pm on Sundays—knocking doors, making calls, and recruiting a base of more than 200 volunteers to do the same. This experience showed me I could work ridiculous hours to achieve the desired goal, and I could be persuasive.

I chose IU McKinney School of Law for a few reasons, including their environmental law program (I wanted to use my future law license to save the environment, sort of like Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, with whom I share a few other similarities apparently), their proximity to a major market like Indianapolis, and their scholarship/financial aid package. About two months into my first year, I joined the Hendricks County Prosecutors Office as an intern. I worked there for about a year and a half. I helped prepare discovery to be disclosed to defense attorneys, did legal research for whatever prosecutor needed it, and won my first bench trial—a HUGE case where I proved that someone committed the infraction of passing on the right shoulder. (Which I also learned was an infraction in certain circumstances.) The most important part of my time in Hendricks County was getting a feel for criminal law in general and for the courtroom.

In the summer of 2015, between my second and third years of law school, I interned at the Office of the Attorney General in their Criminal Appeals Division. Criminal appeals arise when a party, usually the defendant, disagrees with a ruling by the trial court, often whether evidence should’ve been suppressed/excluded or whether a sentence was too harsh. It was my job to advocate the State’s position in these disputes. This was a very fulfilling experience that allowed me to practice and improve my legal writing and research. It also gave me a higher-level understanding of criminal law concepts that you don’t necessarily acquire in the courtroom.

In September 2016, I received notice that I passed the July 2016 Bar Exam, and the next Deputy Attorney General opening in the AG’s Office was in Tax Litigation. Well, that’s not totally true. The next opening was in Criminal Appeals, and it was kind of assumed throughout the division that I would get that position. When I was not offered that spot, I took the next opening in Tax Litigation. I often wonder where I’d be if I had been offered and accepted that Criminal Appeals position. Because I did NOT fit well in Tax Litigation. I worked long hours just to scrape by. The material just didn’t click, and I didn’t have a passion for it. And that brought me to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and back to criminal law, which was obviously my passion.

I joined MCPO in May 2017 and was thrust into Court 10 handling general misdemeanors. There was a pretty steep learning curve and I had to hit the ground running to manage my two to three days per week in court and the related caseload. After about a year in Court 10, I handled OVWIs in Court 7 for three months before being promoted to STRIKE, MCPO’s drug prosecution unit, doing Level 6 felonies in Court 25. This is where I met Kathie Perry and another attorney or two from the Criminal Defense Team. Finally, I was promoted to prosecuting major drug felonies before I was recruited by Kathie to join the Team in May 2019.

I really enjoyed what I did at MCPO, and I learned a lot. I did dozens of bench trials (trials where the judge, not a jury, gives the verdict), multiple suppression hearings, and six jury trials. My cases ranged from first-time thefts from Walmart or possessions of marijuana to major felony drug dealers and violent felonies. The cases I tried in front of a jury included batteries, thefts, resisting law enforcement, and possession of a handgun by a serious violent felon. I also enjoyed other aspects of being a prosecutor like doing “ride alongs” or serving search warrants with various officers; these were instrumental in my understanding of what’s written in police reports, allowing me to better visualize what I was reading.

What did I like about being a prosecutor? Prosecutors’ credo is to do justice. I appreciated the autonomy, the importance, and the ethics of that credo. To me, doing justice meant doing what’s right, whether that be to dismiss a case where I thought the defendant was innocent; offer pretrial diversion to a first-time offender; not settle for a soft plea on a defendant who I believed was a true danger to society and/or whose crimes were particularly offensive; or trying a case where I believed the defendant committed the crime even if I thought I was going to lose. Doing justice did not mean “get the harshest sentence I possibly can.” There was a lot of discretion, and I genuinely tried my best to do what I thought was right.

Sean Moved from Criminal Defense to Prosecution

So why did I leave MCPO, join the Criminal Defense Team, and become a criminal defense attorney? Contrary to popular perceptions of slick defense attorneys, it wasn’t really for the higher earning potential, although that was, of course, a consideration. One reason was I thought learning criminal law from both sides would make me a better and more well-rounded attorney, and that’s been true so far. Just like doing ride-alongs with police gave me a better perspective on how to prosecute cases, seeing the other side of criminal law would provide similar context and balance. I was also looking forward to experiencing courtrooms outside of Marion County.

Another reason was I wanted to help people. I mentioned above that I learned early on that life is rarely black and white. Even when I was a prosecutor I empathized with some defendants and defense attorneys. (More than once I walked defendants through pretrial diversion agreements when they didn’t think they could afford attorneys and I didn’t think they were appropriate for the most aggressive prosecution, so I guess I had a little practice.) I thought that a lot of defendants—what I called them as a prosecutor; they’re “clients” now!—are just people, and people make mistakes sometimes. Additionally, our justice system requires zealous advocacy to make sure the State does its job properly, from police up to prosecutors.

And finally, I liked the Team. I’d worked well with Kathie on a couple of cases, and I appreciated her approach and the manner in which she dealt with me—professionally, respectfully, and genuinely. Then I met the other partners and some of the rest of the Team, and I felt very comfortable. I liked the team approach, that they workshop things, bounce ideas off one another, and take advantage of the variety of skills, connections, and experiences they have. Plus, everyone just seemed welcoming and fun.

So I joined the Team after Memorial Day 2019, and I’ve loved it so far. I’ve been in two jury trials, and our clients have both been acquitted of the felony charges against them. I’ve worked out some excellent resolutions for clients who needed it, and I look forward to continuing to do so.

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