Holy Cross Mock Trial Earns Bid to the Opening Round of the National Championship

Holy Cross’ mock trial program recently gave Crusaders ample reasons to rise to their feet. On Feb. 6-7, members of mock trial competed in the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) Regional Tournament held in Central Islip, Long Island, where one Holy Cross team earned a bid to the Opening Round Championship Series of the National Championship Tournament. Holy Cross mock trial will compete in the opening round hosted by the University of Delaware on March 19-20 for a spot in the national championships in April.

The team of six was led by senior captains Sean Griffin ’16 and Barry Quinn ’16, who brought a combined seven years of collegiate mock trial experience, along with Bethany Fogerty ’16, Jennifer Vera ’16, Ajit Bhullar ’18, Martin Myslinski ’18, and two first-year mockers, Brian Senier ’19 and Sarah Behrens ’19. The team won their first six trials against the University of Albany, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and New York University, finishing with one of the finest records of the weekend, superior to several institutions known for their strong mock trial programs.

“Winning a bid at the American Mock Trial Regionals this year has truly been a remarkable accomplishment,” says Edward McDermott ’79, longtime coach and cofounder of mock trial at Holy Cross. “We lost a significant amount of mock trial talent last year due to graduations; however, we were fortunate to have several entering first years who had significant high school mock trial experience. Adding that talent component to our senior veterans has been the key to our success this year.”

Students in the mock trial program have been studying the national case since it was released by the AMTA in the summer of 2015; this year’s case is a criminal one focused on bribery. Students received the case and the applicable penal code; a series of issues agreed to by opposing counsel, or stipulations; and exhibits and affidavits relevant to the case, which may include information such as ballistic tests, photographs, police reports, witness statements, phone records, etc. Each team, which can range from six to 10 students, readied both sides of the case in preparation for trying the case twice, as both the prosecuting team and the defense team.

“The skill-set learned or improved upon by participating in mock trial is useful not only for students who plan careers in law,” shares Scott Sandstrom, coordinator of the mock trial and moot court programs, who says the skills are equally important for leaders and decision-makers in any occupation. Students gain develop skills in mock trial, he explains, by learning how to present a winning argument using the actual format by trial courts, how to make an opening statement, how to perform a direct examination of a witness, how to effectively cross-examine a witness, and how to make a closing argument.

The fall semester was spent mastering each mock trial component on campus and competing in invitational tournaments, leading up to the regional tournament season where Holy Cross successfully qualified for the opening championship. According to McDermott, approximately 5000 college students competed nationwide in mock trial this year. Out of the 656 teams that competed in the 25 regional tournaments, Holy Cross is one of only 165 teams to qualify for the first round of the national championship.

The other Holy Cross team that competed in the Long Island tournament earned an “open bid” to the National Championship, which places them on a short list to potentially secure one of the several open bids available at the end of the regional tournaments that are given by the AMTA. The team consisted of team captain Emily Hall ’17, and underclassmen Jose Saplala ’18, Sheng Chan ’18, Sofia Maietta ’19, Elizabeth Sisko 19, Samuel Ryder '19, and Jessica Russo 19. The predominantly young team of mockers completed the tournament in good standing.

In preparation for the opening round of the National Championship, both Holy Cross mock trial teams will be working vigorously for the opportunity to argue on the national stage.

Contributions by Brian Senier ’19

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