At the Mock Trial Regional Championship at Syracuse University last weekend, UR’s program qualified two teams for the National Championship, which will be held in mid-March at Miami University of Ohio.
Of the 17 active members on the team, only seven are returning from last year. According to UR Mock Trial President and senior Andrew Cashmore, qualifying more than one team is an especially significant accomplishment for such a young group.
‘To get two teams to Nationals is very impressive,” Cashmore said. ‘We’ve had teams much more experienced than this that have not been able to do that.”
In fact, it’s the first time two teams have done so in school history.
There were a total of 26 teams at the Regional Tournament, with representation from Cornell University, Penn State University, New York Univeristy, Syracuse University and other colleges. Even with this stiff competition, one of UR’s teams placed third, while the other placed ninth and earned an honorable mention.
For competitions, each Mock Trial team has to prepare arguments for both sides the prosecution and the defense of a mock court case, which was a murder this year. The teams all took part in four separate trials in the tournament, arguing a predetermined side of the case for each.
An affidavit, accessible by all the teams, outlines the key facts and stories of the witnesses. Like a real court case, witnesses can be examined by their own side, as well as cross-examined by the other team.
Also akin to the actual court system, attorneys have to develop opening and closing statements to enhance their case.
Vice President of UR Mock Trial and senior Brittany Crowley commented on the various skills that mock trial requires.
‘It’s a combination of legal practicing, acting, public speaking and debate,” Crowley said.
A practicing lawyer acted as a presiding judge during the trials. The judge was responsible for scoring in both the individual and team performances.
Prior to the Regional Championship, the Mock Trial teams had participated in three invitationals this year. In the first two of these competitions, the team placed second and third, respectively.
Although the invitationals do not affect a team’s ability to participate in Regionals, they help the team to gauge progress, test the responses to case strategies and give new members a chance to participate in competition.
Even so, the Regional Tournament was by far the biggest event of the season for UR Mock Trial.
‘You can win every invitational you go to, but if you don’t do well at Regionals, your season’s over,” Cashmore said.
At the tournament, several members of UR’s team also won individual awards. Junior Peter Dirkes, Crowley and Cashmore all won All-Regional Attorney Awards for their performances. In addition, freshman Alina Rozenfeld won an All-Regional Witness Award.
UR’s team was also the Regional winner of the Spirit of AMTA Award, which is awarded by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), to the team that ‘best exemplifies the ideals of civility, fair play and justice.
Although UR earned two bids to Nationals, the team is only accepting one because of timing conflicts among some of the members.
The teams are allowed to restructure their membership before Nationals, however, which
Cashmore is viewing as a golden opportunity.
‘We hope that by combining the teams, we’ll be able to put forward our strongest members in a way that will be successful,” he said.
Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.