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Led by Marquis Scholar Andrew McCarthy ’05, who earned an All-American Witness award, a Lafayette team came away with a trophy March 21-23 at the American Mock Trial Association’s Silver Flight national tournament in Minneapolis, Minn. Trophies were awarded to the top 15 in the 52-team field.

McCarthy, a double major in International Affairs and economics & business from Marysville, Ohio, earned perfect scores of 10 for direct examination, cross examination, and closing in one round as a defense attorney and a perfect score in three rounds as a witness en route to five first-place, one second-place, and one third-place finish.

Several teammates scored at least one perfect 10: Dyan Argento ’05, a government & foreign languages major from Pittsburgh, Pa., twice in her role as a witness, with two first-place, one second-place, and one third-place finish; Bill Simmons ’04, a double major in English and philosophy from Trenton, N.J., once as a witness and once as an attorney for the plaintiff, with one first-place, two second-place, and four third-place finishes; Lori Weaver ’06 of White Haven, Pa., twice as a witness, with two third-place finishes; and Natalie Kamphaus ’05, a religion & politics major from Athens, Ga., once as a defense witness.

In addition, Sarah Stocker, a government and law major from Harrison, N.Y., scored second-place and third-place finishes as an attorney. Seanna Dyer ’03, a double major in government & law and psychology from Portland, Maine, competed as an attorney for the plaintiff with one second-place finish. John Raymond ’05, an International Affairs major from Verona, N.J., served as timekeeper.

Two students qualified for the tournament but were unable to attend: Kim Posocco ’03, a double major in history and English from Scranton, Pa., and Cherish O’Donnell ’03, a double major in Legal Philosophy and Spanish from Toms River, N.J.

“It was a phenomenal season,” says Diane Elliott, director of mock trial and associate director for public service for Lafayette’s Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government “I saw incredible improvement in all of the students. They were more prepared than many ‘real’ lawyers, which they were told by the judges. The poise that they displayed, the way they handled objections, and the characters that they played as witnesses — they refined everything. I fully expect that we will return to nationals next year.”

The high caliber of Lafayette’s mock trial competitors is evidenced by the fact that six of the seven seniors already have received acceptance in law schools; the seventh is still waiting for responses.

A participant in mock trial for six years, including four in high school, McCarthy has seen Lafayette’s young program make considerable progress.

“To start a new program four years ago and already receive bids to national tournaments such as the one in St. Paul is a considerable accomplishment,” he says. “The team has learned very quickly how to compete in the mock trial realm, how to construct a powerful argument, and how to stand out persuasively against strong teams such as Northwestern University and Penn.”

“Many of the ballots that the Lafayette team lost in the latest national tournament were typically by a marginal one or two points, contrasting greatly with a ballot that Lafayette won by 28 points,” adds McCarthy, a member of College Republicans who plans to study abroad next year in Japan. “As long as the team stays on this course, the program can only grow in size and strength.”

Lafayette qualified for the national competition based on its performance at the Altoona Regional Tournament last month, joining teams from Columbia, Penn, and Cornell in advancing. McCarthy received his second Outstanding Witness award of the season there.

Lafayette sent three teams to Altoona and earned the second highest number of awards. Erin Reynolds ’03, a double major in government & law and French from Larchmont, N.Y., won her second Outstanding Attorney honor. Her teammates were Rachel Blackman ’04, a neuroscience major from Warwick, R.I.; Megan Cottrell ’03, an A.B. engineering major from Brick, N.J.; Rob Fallone ’04, a double major in math and government & law from Bridgewater, N.J.; Brian Heyesey ’03, a double major in government & law and Spanish from Allentown, Pa.; Steve Schrum ’05, a history major from Flanders, N.J.; Ben Wilmoth ’05, an economics and business major from Marysville, Ohio; and Robin Yudkovitz ’03, a psychology major from Westfield, N.J.

In her first mock trial appearance, Jenna Cellini ’06 of New York, N.Y., earned an Outstanding Witness award at Altoona. Her teammates were Raymond, Weaver, Brandon Benjamin ’06 of Towanda, Pa.; Steven Caruso ’06 of Middletown, N.J.; Jonathan Glick ’05, a mechanical engineering major from Hamden, Conn.; Alex Kharaz ’06 of Holmdel, N.J.; Charles Landon ’06 of Shrewsbury, N.J.; John Landon ’05, a government and law major from Shrewsbury, N.J.; and Joe Narkevic ’06 of Ambridge, Pa.

The other Lafayette team at Altoona included Argento, the only witness to score a perfect 10 from one of the judges for her portrayal of a consultant and former medical examiner; along with Dyer, McCarthy, Simmons, Kamphaus, Posocco, Stocker, and O’Donnell.

A mock trial team comprised of Posocco, Fallone, Raymond, Kharaza, and Adrienne Stark ’04 of Oxford, N.J., a double major in American Studies and economics and business, will compete tomorrow against members of Lafayette’s 1962 Championship College Bowl team (see related article). (Stark, who studied abroad last semester, participated in the mock trial team’s scrimmage against three local attorneys in February.)

Two Lafayette teams opened the season Nov. 8-9 by finishing ahead of squads representing schools such as Dartmouth, Wesleyan, Holy Cross, University of New Hampshire, and Beloit at the Yale Mock Trial Association Tournament in New Haven, Conn. Reynolds won an Outstanding Attorney award, and McCarthy and Weaver received Outstanding Witness honors. Only 15 attorney awards and 12 witness awards were presented within the pool of nearly 450 competitors. (Jen Carton ’04, a Spanish major from Interlaken, N.J., competed in the event before studying abroad this semester.)

By virtue of its excellent performance and sportsmanship at Yale, Lafayette was invited by Cornell to that school’s first invitational in January. With the event held at the end of its interim session between semesters, Lafayette fielded two teams of just six students each, rather than the normal complement of eight. Despite competing short-handed, with everyone playing two roles and working with new team members on just two days of preparation, half of the Lafayette students found themselves in the running for attorney and witness awards heading into the final round.

“I have learned a lot from mock trial,” says Raymond. “As a first-time participant, I have learned how to analyze, criticize, and inquire about issues presented. This has caused me to be more open-minded and critical towards issues in my daily life.”

Mock trial is a simulation of a bench trial — meaning before a judge with no jury — based on a hypothetical legal case in which teams of six to eight students each take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses. Cases alternate yearly between criminal and civil matters.

“Mock trial is an opportunity for students to experience what it is like to try a case – from prepping the case, to preparing the witnesses, and finally, to arguing in front of a judge,” explains Yudkovitz. “Aside from getting a taste of the law, mock trial is a great way to improve public speaking confidence.”

“Mock trial is a great experience,” adds Schrum. “It has provided me with the opportunity to meet new people, travel, and learn basic courtroom practices. It’s always interesting to see other schools’ theories of the case.”

The teams compete in four rounds, two as plaintiff/prosecution and two as defense. One team member acts as a timekeeper as both sides have 25 minutes to complete their case-in-chief and 25 minutes to cross-examine opposing witnesses. The entire round must be completed in three hours. The rigorous schedule becomes more intense at invitational events where all four rounds are completed in a day and a half.

This year’s competition involved the fictitious case of Lee and Andi Smith vs. J.J. Thompson. The summary states, “On Feb. 8, 2002, Derric Smith, a seven-year-old boy, died as a result of allegedly being struck by a vehicle in front of his home in State Center, Midlands. J.J. Thompson, the defendant, is being sued by the parents of Derric Smith for allegedly hitting their son, thereby causing his wrongful and untimely death.”

Elliott has been assisted this year by Jared Gardner, a recent graduate of University of Western Ontario and intern at the Meyner Center, and Carmela Karns, administrative assistant.

Last school year, two Lafayette teams entered the Altoona Regional Tournament, coming away with two Outstanding Witness awards and entry for one group in the American Mock Trial National Tournament in St. Petersburg, Fla. (See related story.) The other Lafayette team narrowly missed qualifying for that tournament, but later received a discretionary bid to the national tournament in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In the Lafayette program’s very first competition, a group of 10 first-year students received an Outstanding New Team award at a regional tournament hosted by Princeton University in February 2000 (see related story). Yudkovitz, Stocker, Posocco, O’Donnell, Cottrell, Heyesey, and Dyer were founding members.

In its second season, Lafayette earned the Outstanding New Team award at a major tournament hosted by Loras College in Iowa (see related story). Last year, Lafayette won the prestigious Spirit of AMTA award at the regional tournament hosted by University of Maryland at College Park (see related story). The honor, which is “given to the team at each regional and national tournament that best exemplifies the spirit of courtesy and fair play,” is based upon the votes of fellow competitors.

The AMTA was founded in 1985 to give undergraduate students an opportunity to learn first-hand about the work of trial attorneys, understand the judicial system, develop critical thinking, and enhance communication skills.

Because of the level of competition and quality of competitors, AMTA national events draw law school representatives seeking to recruit students. Participation in mock trial is thought to be favorably considered by law schools in their admissions decisions.

For more information on mock trial and this year’s fictitious case, see the related article on Lafayette’s web site.

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