The Saint Rose Mock Trial Teams use invitationals as a way to practice for American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) regional and national tournaments. And if their performance at the Capital Region Clash Invitational earlier this month is an indication of how they will do at the AMTA tournaments in February, then they’re in prime shape for the competition.
Saint Rose Mock Trial Team B placed third overall while three students received awards for their performances as attorneys and witnesses.
Saint Rose and the UAlbany Mock Trial teams hosted the Capital Region Clash Invitational on November 9 and 10 in collaboration with Albany Law School. Held at the UAlbany campus, mock trial teams competed in two rounds each day and participated in a closing award ceremony.
The Saint Rose Mock Trial Team started six years ago and has since divided into two teams, Team A and Team B, to meet the growing needs of the program. The teams practice in the College’s mock trial courtroom named after Hon. Loretta A. Preska ‘70, United States District Court Judge, an alumna of Saint Rose, and benefactor of the team. The program is open to students of all majors and encouraged for those planning to obtain a Juris Doctor degree.
We spoke with co-captain Lexus (Lexi) Coughlin ’19, a criminal justice, behavior, and law major with a concentration in law, about the team’s experience at the invitational and what’s next for these budding legal scholars.
Here’s what Coughlin had to say:
Q: How did you prepare for this competition?
A: The team had practice every night before the competition for about four hours each night, practicing roles and running witness calls. I was double-sided for the competition this past weekend, meaning I was an attorney for both the prosecution and defense. For the prosecution, I prepared by going over the direct examination of my witness, fixing my potential cross of the opposing side’s defendant, and preparing the closing argument. I did the same for defense, but I actually directed the defendant. The team, in general, spends at least 20 hours a week together the week before a competition, and that doesn’t include outside work done by each individual person.
Q: Why was it special to participate in the Capital Region Clash Invitational?
A: Saint Rose was actually a co-host for the Capital Clash Invitational with UAlbany. My co-captain, Jared Kossover, was one of the directors for the competition while I competed with the team. It was an extremely important invitational because, for many of our new freshman and sophomores, it was their first time competing! It was so special for our team to be a part of this competition as it brought us together and showed us that our hard work pays off!
Q: Walk me through the competition — what is it like?
A: We start the first day of the competition by registering and going to opening ceremonies where you find out your team name and who you are competing against for the first round of the day. From there, the captains of each team meet with the opposing side to tell each other who they will be calling as witnesses. Then, you go to the first round of the competition. During the actual round, it can be very stressful, but for the team, it creates an adrenaline rush.
Q: Describe the case for this event:
A: The case this year is a criminal case where the prosecution can choose between two different charges — they can choose either aggravated murder or involuntary manslaughter. The case is about a mother who is being charged for the death of her daughter who was found at a campsite at the bottom of an overlook. It is based almost completely on circumstantial evidence because no one actually sees the defendant commit the crime.
Q: Who did the teams compete against?
A: We’ve competed against a lot of teams in the past two invitationals. At Rochester’s invitational, we competed against Brandeis A&B, Pace University, and Ithaca College. At the Capital Clash Invitational, we competed against the University of Connecticut A&B, SUNY Geneseo A&B, Siena College, SUNY Buffalo B, and UAlbany.
Q: What does winning third place mean to you?
A: Winning third place means that the work our team has put in so far has paid off. It means that our school is recognized in an academic team setting, and it shows the ability of our students to succeed in a competitive environment.
Q: In addition to taking third, three members won individual awards for their performances (you and Megan Frederick won attorney awards and Jacob Scofield won a witness award)—how significant is it to win individual awards?
A: To win an individual award, you have to rank very high on each ballot in a specific round and you have to beat the opposing side’s attorneys or witnesses. It shows dedication and an ability to adapt to a difficult situation. But it is almost impossible to win an award without the help of your entire team. Without a strong witness, the attorney themselves won’t do well and vice versa. We are very proud of those who won individual awards and our entire team as a whole.
Q: What did you learn from this experience?
A: We gained further insight into the case as well as new ideas to potentially try and arguments to make for objections.
Q: What’s next for the Mock Trial team?
A: We have another invitational in about two weeks at Clark University in Massachusetts and then we have our own scrimmage next semester along with regionals.