Friday, September 22, 2023
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Friday, September 22, 2023

Life After A Career Of Prosecuting Adults Who Hurt Children

Popovich family lore goes something like this: On the day she was born, Jennifer Popovich’s father declared his new daughter would someday become a lawyer.

It might have ended there, with a father’s blissful wish for his baby, except that, by the time she was 12 years old, Popovich agreed with his proclamation. At Quigley Catholic High School, she joined the mock trial team and won the state championship three years in a row. In 1999, she enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law with the goal of becoming a prosecutor and trying a death penalty case.

Almost two decades later, Popovich has accomplished both feats. After a year as a law clerk for Beaver County Judge John McBride and another in the county public defender’s office, Popovich became an assistant district attorney in the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office where she tried the cases that many consider the most arduous: child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Protecting society’s most vulnerable citizens is a task that takes a heavy emotional toll. Those who try the cases are never just lawyers; they’re investigators and protectors and therapists. And, after 15 years, having hit the top of the county’s pay scale and achieved her stated career goals — she tried death penalty cases against Robert Burgess and Devon Shealey in 2014 for the double homicide of a Beaver Falls couple — Popovich decided she needed to move on before she burned out.

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April Johnston
April Johnston
April is a contributing features reporter. Her work has earned more than 30 regional, state, and national awards.

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