Although she secured a conviction and an eight-year prison sentence for a U.S. Marshall who had sexually assaulted women in Milwaukee County, Erin Karshen didn’t stop there — not when her investigation had uncovered evidence that linked the culprit to assaults in another county.
Karshen requested and received permission to help a Columbia County prosecutor go after the defendant for those other assaults. She didn’t have to think twice before offering to help out.
“I knew the case well,” she said. “I knew the defendant well.”
But that case is just one of many that show Karshen’s dedication to seeking justice in her position as the leading sensitive crimes prosecutor in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.
One thing she enjoys about her work is that it lets her meet people from all walks of life — ranging from victims to judges.
“It’s always challenging, always interesting,” she said. “There’s always something new and different. I get to learn about different areas … The job provides me an interesting caseload with a wide number of defendants. And I have the opportunity to educate youth.”
But the job is not without challenges. For one, many of her cases depend upon people who have been victimized.
“The hardest part is trying to navigate a system with people who have been so traumatized and hurt by other people,” Karshen said. “A lot of times it can be very traumatic. We are asking a lot of people to participate in the system.”
She noted that although Milwaukee County has many great resources, the criminal justice system is not necessarily something that can help victims recover from traumatic experiences.
“Navigating that and making sure we’re not causing more harm than good is always difficult,” Karshen said.
Internally, she noted that the work is not as glamourous as it is portrayed on TV shows such as “CSI” and “Law and Order.”
“It takes a lot of time and effort and dedication to serve our community in a way that is effective,” Karshen said. “There are a lot of external challenges.”
Her ability to rise above obstacles stems in part from the year she spent in France as an undergraduate student.
The trip kicked off with a rocky start. After she had flown and taken a train to her destination, Karshen found that her designated host family had not yet returned from a trip and ended up having to stay with some other people.
“Having that kind of outside perspective of different food and different cultures … learning outside yourself was one of my greatest experiences,” she said.