Friday, May 13, 2016

Pre Law Student Association (PLSA) Mock Trial

2016 Mock Trial Simulation

On April 20, the Pre Law Student Association (PLSA) hosted its 14th Annual Mock Trial Simulation. Participants are provided with a case packet consisting of witnesses statements, a stipulated fact pattern, and applicable law.  From these raw materials, the teams must develop a strategy and prepare everything from the opening remarks, direct and cross examination of witnesses, to the closing arguments on their own. The teams practice separately, forcing them to anticipate their opposition's case until the day of the actual trial.  For witnesses this is especially challenging -- they are practice their direct questioning with their team's counsel but are not subject to any practice cross-examination until the day of the big event.  The case materials, moreover, are written to give both sides a fair chance at prevailing, with a few curve balls and obstacles thrown in for good measure.  The jurors -- student volunteers from related political science courses -- render a verdict at the conclusion of the event.

Over 100 students have participated in the event since mock trial's debut at the 2003 Academic Festival as attorneys, witnesses, and jurors.  Many of those students have gone on to law school or careers in related fields and recall moot court as a fun experience that allowed them to practice their oral advocacy and presentation skills.  

This year's case was a criminal matter involving two counts of disorderly conduct and assault with a criminal enhancer for a "hate crime."  The case placed a high school senior on trial for an altercation where the victim was allegedly chosen for her sexual orientation.  The presentation of the case was followed by a "talk-back" session where participants and audience members could discuss the case and jury's verdict. 

What was unusual about this year's event was that it was the first time where the participants were all female -- and the gender of the participants in the role became as much a topic of discussion as did the LGBT issues during the talk back -- whether the gender of the students playing the character roles impacted the jury's perceptions of the legal claims or facts in dispute.  

In the end, the jury returned a split verdict, finding the defendant guilty of disorderly conduct but declining to convict on the assault. The jury failed to find that a hate crime had taken place, determining instead that the altercation was the consequence of adolescent disagreement in which both the victim and alleged perpetrator bore responsibility.  

Presiding over the event was Special Guest Judge, Sarah Rodman, who graduated from Daemen College in 2012 with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Pre Law. While at Daemen, Sarah organized a musical show-case event, Raise Your Voice, in order to bring awareness to LGBTQ bullying issues.  Her legal field interests are Intellectual Property law as pertaining to the fashion and design sector, as well as Copyright Law in the Entertainment sector. Her interest in the entertainment sector stems from her extensive musical and theatrical background. With over 16 years of private vocal training, both in Buffalo and NYC, she is trained in classical/opera and Broadway. Sarah is currently interning with the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project. She will graduate from the University at Buffalo School of Law in May 2016.

The Prosecution

Representing the state and carrying the burden of proof in this criminal matter were: 

Assistant District Attorney: Jessica Maulucci (2016, Political Science) is a Student Alumni Ambassador. She has minors in Pre-Law Studies, Criminal Justice, Psychology, and General Business. She is interested in becoming a criminal prosecution attorney and will be attending law school in the fall. She has been accepted to Albany Law School, St. John's University, University at Buffalo, and Stetson University.  

Assistant District Attorney: Jasmine Favors (Political Science 2017) has an interest in becoming a criminal prosecutor. She plans on attending law school in either the New York City vicinity or out of sate after Daemen College.

Assistant District Attorney: Annabel Pietrocarlo (2017, Liberal Studies) is pursuing her Liberal Studies degree with a concentration in political science and law. After graduation, she plans to become a certified massage therapist.

Witness (Officer Bugg Winchester): Jenil Bell (Political Science 2017) is interested in going to law school and becoming a lawyer after graduating from Daemen College. 

Witness (Pat Walters): Brooklyn Crockton (Political Science and English ) likes to eat ice cream while watching court room dramas. She is considering law school as one of several options upon graduation.

Witness (Tina O’Reilly): Hannah Gerber (Political Science 2018) is a member of the Pre-Law Association. She is interested in becoming a criminal lawyer and plans to attend law school after graduating from Daemen College.

The Defense 

Defense Attorney: Imani Evans (Political Science 2018) is involved in Pre-Law association and is highly interested in politics, preforming arts, and communications. Her dream is to host her very own talk show.

Defense Attorney: Sassy Fernandez (Business Administration 2016) is specializing in International Business with a minor in Pre-Law. Her interests are economics, politics, and fashion. Sassy has played tennis for five years including one year on the Daemen Women's Tennis Team. She is currently interning for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in downtown Buffalo.

Defense Attorney: Taqiyah Gibbons (History and Political Science 2018) is the Vice President of the Black Student Union and a member of both the Pre-law club and the History and Government Club. In the future she is planning on becoming both a Historian and a Lawyer.

Witness (Vice Principle Faye Zelleger): Fati Haruna (Political Science 2018) is captain of the step team, as well as a member of many different clubs on campus that promote diversity and creativity. She has always had an interest in the court system and attended Moot Court last spring at the academic festival as a juror.

Defendant (Carson White): Shamella Jeffers (History and Political Science 2018, minor in Black Studies) is the Sophomore class president, Historian of Cynergy and Secretary of Club Caribana. She wants to be an A.P. U.S. History teacher after being in the classroom for a few years. She also wants to work for the Department of Education to change the history curriculum.

Witness (Dana Reuter): Kayla Stannard (Physical Therapy BA:2018 DPT:2020) is a sister of Sigma Omega Chi sorority and is in the Honors Program and CRU as well. She participated in Moot Court throughout high school and was in the event at Daemen last year as a juror.
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Faculty Sponsors of the Event included: Dr. Lisa Parshall, Associate Professor of Political Science & Pre Law Advisor (PLSA Advisor), Dr. Jay Wendland, Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Dr. Heike Peckruhn, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies. 

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