A cold case cracked, a career launched

Student ends law school with unparalleled prosecution experience

When I started at KU Law as a summer starter in 2016, my goal was to follow the accelerated track. If I played my cards right and took a sufficient number of credit hours per semester, I could graduate in two years. The task seemed daunting, but as my last summer as a law student approached, I found myself in the perfect position: six hours of credit needed to graduate, and six hours of credit to be provided by participating in KU Law’s Field Placement Program.

During my time in law school, my interests had evolved and I found myself strongly pulled toward a career in prosecution. Most of this desire was based upon the work I did prior to law school. I had been a legal secretary for a Beloit law firm that provided services ranging from estate planning to criminal defense. I worked with Mitchell County Attorney Mark Noah, whom I grew to respect and admire for the work he did in our area.

Thus, it seemed that the stars had truly aligned when my fiancé agreed to move back to my hometown, Mr. Noah agreed to be my field placement supervisor and mentor for the summer, and Professor Suzanne Valdez (supervisor of the Prosecution Field Placement Program) approved the match. Excited as I was, at that time I would have been shocked to learn what my new position had in store for me.

About a month into my field placement experience, an investigation team led by Mitchell County’s sheriff and police chief began reviewing the cold-case murder of 51-year-old Carol Fleming. Ms. Fleming had been a pillar of the community, and her 2003 death shook small-town folk for miles around. This sort of thing just doesn’t happen in our area — a place where people feel safe leaving their doors unlocked at night and their cars running when they duck into the bank.

Now, 15 years later, a review of the case uncovered enough evidence to make an arrest. The suspect? Ms. Fleming’s son, Charles Fleming, now 46 years old and living in Johnson County. The media uproar over his arrest surpassed the attention the crime originally received, with articles published by People.com and news outlets in Kansas City, Wichita and throughout the state. Our office phone was ringing off the hook with journalists attempting to prod us for bits of new information.

The case is still in the pre-trial stage, so I can’t divulge details about evidence or prosecution strategy. But I can share the amazing experience I gained as an intern.

  • Communicated one-on-one with the county attorney, chief of police and sheriff regarding details of the case, potential suspects and alibis, and possible strategies and defenses.
  • Facilitated communication with Kansas Bureau of Investigation laboratories.
  • Participated in the defendant’s first appearance.
  • Prepared subpoenas for potential future inquisitions.
  • Compiled the considerable amount of discovery for opposing counsel.
  • Prepared jury instructions.

As the case progresses, I will likely assist with preparation and research for pre-trial motions and organization of a preliminary hearing notebook.

Perhaps the greatest part of this field placement opportunity is that it has turned into a permanent position for me with the Mitchell County Attorney’s Office, where I am able to continue work on this case and many others, as well as receive advice from my mentor regarding my future.

To say I ended my time at KU Law on a good note would be an understatement. The vast experience and knowledge I have acquired through my field placement is underscored by the sense of pride I have in helping bring justice that may begin to heal the hurt wrought upon Ms. Fleming’s family and the community as a whole.

— Alex Pierce, L’18