Profiles in Justice: Assistant District Attorney Seamus Meintel
“I always knew I wanted to go to law school and be an attorney and work in this office. [As] a member of the mock trial team, I fell in love with thinking about cases, trying to use [my] words and ideas to mold the case − I saw it like an art form,” says Seamus Meintel, an Assistant District Attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Homicide & Non-Fatal Shootings (NFS) Unit and Co-Chair of the DAO’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group.
Inspired by his grandfather, a lifelong Philadelphia Police Officer, Meintel adds, “I always wanted to give back to the city that I grew up in and that I love. I thought the best way that I could do that is to become an attorney and work for the city.”
Born and raised in South Philly, Meintel says earning an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Philosophy at Rutgers further piqued his interest in criminal justice and “laid out a whole world for [me] to think about − the various circumstances surrounding morality and ethics that can come in between people trying to do what’s right and the government systems that create limitations on them.”
While attending Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Meintel interned in the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Unit (FVSAU) at the DAO and recalls a case involving a child victim that made him realize that he wanted to be a prosecutor. “To watch someone so young and innocent find her voice and power, and be an active participant in righting a wrong, made me definitely realize that this is what I want to do. I want to try to give voice to the people who don’t feel like they have a voice and don’t feel like they’re powerful because people have taken that power away from them by the things that they’ve done to them.”
Meintel joined the DAO as a prosecutor in 2015, where he gained experience in the Municipal Court Unit, the Juvenile Unit, the Major Trials Unit, and the Charging Unit.
Meintel was eventually transferred to the Homicide/NFS Unit and has been working on homicide cases since November 2020. Much of his time is spent conducting preliminary hearings, putting on cases, and prepping with detectives “to make sure that we can put on the best possible cases for these families.”
Meintel explains, “I spend a lot of my days speaking to the families of those victims of violence and trying to make sense of the system for them. That’s one of the heaviest things about this particular role that I’m in now − having to speak to moms and dads, brothers, sisters, and loved ones. The kind of raw pain coming from the family members is a lot. You can’t be dispassionate in doing this work. I think you need to feel, to some degree, the passion that families feel. I think that that passion helps you see the light in the dark.”
In discussing the surge in gun violence, Meintel remarks: “What strikes me the most about this past year is the number of child victims and bystanders in the city who were out there living their lives and have nothing to do with the shooter. I hope that the people who are out there with these guns realize that it’s not just about who you think your target is or who you think you are going to harm — you’re going to harm so many more people than you’re imagining.”
Meintel is assigned to the high-profile case Commonwealth vs. El Amin, in which the victim, a Black transgender woman named Mia Greene, was murdered last year. He feels that the targeting of transgender people is an issue that society needs to take more seriously. “I spoke to Mia’s family and one of Mia’s close friends, and they were happy that our office is here to support people from the transgender community who experience this type of violence.”
Meintel speaks honestly about the emotional toll felt by him and his DAO colleagues as a result of working closely with survivors of violence crime. “I couldn’t do this job for six years if it wasn’t for the people that I work with every single day. They are some of my best friends. They are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, people that I lean on each and every day to get through the terrible things that are happening to people out there in this city.”
Meintel continues, “Instead of being in a firm where we’re all trying to compete for a partner track, we’re all [here] trying to get justice.” He says he wants to be known as a person that “treats people with respect and with the human decency that everyone deserves. At the end of the day we’re all human beings, and being kind to other human beings changes the entire world, it changes everything.”