DU mock trial team finds success in New York competition

Sairah Aslam | Staff Writer


On Nov. 18 and 19, the Duquesne University Mock Trial club competed in an invitational competition at St. Bonaventure University, a Catholic college in upstate New York. More than a dozen teams travelled from around New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to compete in the “Friar Faceoff” tournament.

The American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) provides fictional witness testimonies and legal documents. To compete, some students adopt the identities of the witnesses based on the affidavits, while others role-play as attorneys. During a competition, witnesses are responsible for giving testimony that is favorable to their position (either prosecution or defense). Attorneys are responsible for questioning witnesses and delivering opening and closing statements.

Invitationals competitions can be hosted by any university Mock Trial team. They typically take place anytime between October and January. Regional competitions are hosted by the American Mock Trial Association from January until March. Semi-finals and finals are in April and May.

According to Duquesne’s Mock Trial club Vice President Corbin Raeford, invitational competitions are voluntary but offer several valuable benefits.

“They allow the Mock Trial exec[utive board] to see which members are capable to compete in the regional competitions. [They also] “help individual teams stand out” … [and] they allow all members of the teams to compete, which won’t be the case in regionals,” he said.

St. Bonaventure University has hosted a Mock Trial invitational for six years, but this year was the first time that Duquesne’s team competed in it. Last year, the team went to Cleveland, Ohio.In 2015, it competed in Dayton, Ohio.

While at the 2017 invitational competition, Duquesne presented two teams. Both teams exceeded expectations, according to Raeford.

Additionally, Yasmina Sommers, who performed both as a defense attorney and a prosecution witness, received an accolade distinguishing her hard work and talent.

Mock Trial is composed of many diverse members. Dominic Cristini, a pharmacy student, was also recently elected secretary of the club after four years of involvement at both the high school and collegiate level.

“Mock Trial is not just for law students, it’s for everybody … it helped me improve my public speaking skills, which is a great skill and advantage to have in the scientific community,” Cristini said.

That is not to say that aspiring law students cannot benefit from the club.

“The competition was a great confidence builder and terrific way to connect with other students … I would jump at the chance to go again,” Adam Dehm, an aspiring law student, said.

Gabby Kolencik, a freshman, agreed. She came to Duquesne with enough credits to be considered a sophomore. This, combined with her participation in Duquesne’s 3-3 law program, means that she will be taking her LSATs in June. Kolencik said she had a good experience with Mock Trial.

“I had to think on my feet and know the rules of the case and make objections. I had to cross a witness, and direct a witness, and do everything an attorney does … I wanted to learn how a court system works, and Mock Trial’s given me some of that experience,” she said.