Two words describe Kimm Lacken ’88: high achiever. While at TCNJ, then Trenton State College, Lacken earned four varsity letters in basketball, served as team co-captain for two seasons, and was honored her senior year as New Jersey Athletic Conference Female Athlete of the Year and as Most Outstanding Student-Athlete. She was also named a Kodak All-American basketball player and an Academic All-American.
As that last award attests, Lacken didn’t shine only in sports. She graduated magna cum laude from the College with a degree in criminal justice and then set her sights on Rutgers School of Law–Camden, graduating in 1991. Through a series of carefully planned career moves, including two internships in the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, a year in the Grand Jury Unit, and nine years on a trial team followed by three years in the Homicide Unit there, she rose to executive assistant prosecutor in 2004 overseeing the Major Crimes Unit. In 2007 she was named to her current position, deputy first assistant prosecutor, in charge of the same unit.
“I prosecute homicides and arson-related homicides, and I supervise the Arson, Megan’s Law, Homicide, Appellate and Training Units,” Lacken said. She makes trial work look easy, observers have said, but she admits it takes a certain kind of person to do her job. But, she explains, like most people in her profession, she’s able to compartmentalize the seedier side of life she encounters every day.“There comes a point in your career where you say I can’t change the world, but I can try and make it better for a small segment of people. And if I can, I’m going to,” Lacken said. She’s talking, of course, about the victims for whom she tries to get justice. The Mercer County resident has secured convictions in several major homicide trials. However, the one that has stayed with her involves an attempted murder and carjacking that left the victim in a wheelchair, able to use only one arm and hand. “The victim taught me a lot about survival. I told myself that if he could get up and try to make positive strides in his own life, then I could put in as many hours trying for a successful prosecution,” she said. The two attackers received life sentences, and the case helped to change the “three strikes” law. Lacken explained that since then, defendants who commit three prerequisite (or qualifying) crimes in New Jersey are subject to enhanced sentencing regardless of whether they were sentenced to those crimes on the same date or not.
In addition to giving her a foundation in the criminal justice system, Lacken owes a debt to TCNJ for another reason—she met her husband, Phil Coyne ’98, also a TCNJ alumnus, while teaching a class at the College as an adjunct in 1995. Coyne, a captain in the New Jersey State Troopers and commandant of the State Police Academy in Sea Girt, took her class in Judicial Process. They married a few years later and have a 5-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter.