Courtesy of Dawn Wendt

Last weekend, while most people debated who would claim the Superbowl title, the UR Mock Trial Organization debated the details of Vanessa Sullivan’s murder in a tournament hosted at UR.

Fourteen schools and 23 teams gathered at UR to debate what they have been practicing since October — the case of Vanessa Sullivan, who went out for drinks on her 21st birthday and tragically died on the way home when her friend crashed the vehicle while driving under the influence of alcohol.

After a weekend of debating the details of the case, the UR team, which has 35 members, emerged with fairly strong results: The A Team finished with four wins, three losses and one tie, while the B Team closed with four wins and four losses. President of Mock Trial and senior Yoni Bokser was happy with the results.

“Given the level of competition at our tournament I was pleased with our performance,” Bokser said. “We will continue to improve and I am confident we will succeed at our next competition.”

Additionally, two UR students were honored with individual awards. Sophomore Cassidy Welter won the individual witness award and Team B Co-captain and sophomore Jacob Bohannon won the attorney award.

The team worked hard perfecting their case theory, strategy and witnesses’ characters for the trial itself, but hosting the tournament required extensive preparation as well, according to Bokser.

The team was responsible for all the administrative tasks, from enlisting alumni and local lawyers to preside as judges, to coordinating the trial rooms, to taking out the trash.

The effort proved worthwhile, the team claims, as they reported how rewarding it was to provide the other schools with a competitive and stimulating weekend of debate.

“It gave me an idea of what it’s like to be in a real court room and life skills for arguing your opinion more effectively, because everyone is arguing the same case so we have to come at it from a new angle,” freshman Rachel Goldberg said.

Goldberg’s sentiments reflect what appears to be growing enthusiasm for mock trial on the UR campus. Popularity for the group has grown, and they now practice two or three times a week. They are student run, without a formal coach, and have no University advisers to assist with training.

Bokser has been present for the evolution of the mock trial team in the last four years.

“Every year interest has grown and we’ve seen more people turn out for tryouts,” he said. “The biggest challenge is keeping people involved since it’s such a time commitment, and managing large amounts of people as a student-run organization.”

As the team continues to move forward, they face their first regional tournament next weekend, with their eyes on the national arena.

Fagan is a member of the class of 2014.

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