Walter Hood, a Master’s candidate in Hood College’s Human Sciences program, serves as a victim/witness coordinator with the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office. In the position for about a year, he primarily works in the District Court as one of six people responsible for acclimating witnesses to the legal system and assuring they are comfortable throughout their contact with the courts.
Hood and his colleagues prepare witnesses for trial, often walking them through what questions they can expect to hear on the stand. He coaches them to always tell the truth, and goes over relevant reports with them to refresh their memories.
“In district court, our prosecutors are extremely busy,” Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said. “Without people like Walter, we wouldn’t really be able to give that personal contact that I feel is extremely important to victims and witnesses of crime.”
For Hood, a Montgomery County resident, the position is an ideal way to blend his interest in law and his love of working with people. He got his start in the legal field at a bankruptcy firm in Bethesda, but he didn’t like working on behalf of big banks. “They didn’t put value on people,” he said. He considered going to law school, but decided against it after many of the lawyers at the firm said, if they had the chance to do it over again, they would not go back to law school.
Hood’s background is not typical for the position, Smith said. Most victim/witness coordinators have a background in criminal justice, not civil businesses cases. Hood’s people skills were impressive, though. “When we hired Walter, he wasn’t your prototypical victim witness coordinator,” Smith said. “We took a gamble on it, and it has worked out tremendously.”
Hood said “I applied for the victim/witness coordinator position because it would let me work more closely with people while still being a part of the court system.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Moore said Hood’s people skills have served him well over the past few weeks as he trained to assist Moore on the domestic violence docket. Hood helped convince a victim of domestic violence to testify against her abuser, which can be a challenge. Walter has also had to help people in unexpected ways. He recently led a woman with visual impairment around the courthouse by the hand and called her a taxi to make sure she made it back home safely.
Working with people in stressful situations can be emotional. Hood is often moved by drug cases, where he has seen how addiction can affect an entire family. “It can be pretty tough to watch a mother and a father crying in court … because this one family member is deciding to use drugs.”
Walter Hood loves what he is doing and the energy follows him. He says “The master’s program at Hood College really helped me identify and sharpen the strategic tools that I need to be successful in my day-to-day work. The Human Sciences Master’s program is extremely relevant when it comes to understanding and working with people, especially those in crisis situations, so it is a huge advantage to be able to incorporate the valuable information from the classroom and bring it to the workplace.”