Mock Trial Attends Regional Tournament

Emily McGinty

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During the weekend of February 11 – 12, nine members of the University of New Haven Mock Trial Team attended the American Mock

Eight of the nine members of the University of New Haven Mock Trial Team that attended the American Mock Trial Association Regional Tournament held at Yale University.

Trial Association Regional Tournament held at Yale University.  With brief cases, exhibits, and cups of coffee in hand, the team set up and adjusted their courtroom strategies as necessary to win the verdict.

The Mock Trial had team prepared for the competition since the case was released to the public in August 2011.  During all of these months, the team studied and memorized the facts and affidavits of the defendant and witnesses involved in the criminal case, “The State of Midlands v. Danny Dawson.”  The case involved a defendant, Danny Dawson, who was on trial for Driving Under the Influence and Murder.  Witnesses testified to the facts that on the night of Vanessa Sullivan’s twenty-first birthday, Sullivan, Dawson, and Taylor Hopson went out to a bar to celebrate.  At the end of the evening, Dawson got behind the wheel of Sullivan’s car and drove the group home on that rainy, stormy night.  Dawson was ultimately involved in a one-car accident that killed Sullivan.  The Mock Trial Team enthusiastically prepared to represent both defense and prosecution in the regional competition.  Both sides of this fictional case had twists and turns that made the arguments of both sides strong and entertaining.

The competition team consisted of seniors Jared Bessette, Paul Cantore, Victoria Ford, and Melissa Norman in addition to sophomores Emily McGinty (Captain) and Liana Teixeira, and freshmen Tori Dugger, Ellen Himmelstein, and Oscar Valenzuela.  Other members of the team included sophomores Gregory Bode, Victoria Gregory (Captain), Rebecca Thielen, and freshmen Ana Abraham, Kasey Cargill, Samantha Holloway, Carly Jones, Jennifer Lee, and Chamya Reed.

The team was lead by faculty advisor Tom Geisler and New Haven Defense Attorney Walter Bansley IV.  They have coached the team since August of 2011 and accompanied the team to two scrimmages as well as to the New Haven Regional competition.

The first chance for the team to demonstrate its legal skills was at an Invitational hosted by Quinnipiac University.  During this January Invitational, New Haven placed second overall just behind Coast Guard Academy.  Members, Melissa Norman and Liana Teixeira both achieved scores in the category of top three attorneys at the competition, one on prosecution and the other on defense.  Member, Emily McGinty also achieved scores in the top three as witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense.

The University of New Haven then hosted a second scrimmage at home against Quinnipiac.  The University of New Haven team won the scrimmage with member Melissa Norman being named top attorney and member Emily McGinty top witness.

The Mock Trial team then attended the Regional Competition along with twenty-nine teams from the surrounding area.  At this well-attended competition, teams from Yale, Colombia, Princeton, Rodger Williams, Southern Connecticut, University of Connecticut, and many others came together to represent the defendant, Danny Dawson or the prosecution, the State of Midland to the best of their abilities.  The scenes that played out were as professional as those in states’ courts and as entertaining as those in the media.  Team lawyers presented opening and closing statement, examined and cross-examined witnesses, and made objections at the appropriate times.  Witnesses presented expert testimony, cried, stuttered, or laughed depending on their role.

The first round of the regional competition set UNH in the role of defense against Marymount Manhattan.  During the second round, UNH played the part of prosecution against Colombia.  During the third round, UNH again competed as prosecution against Rodger Williams.  The final round pitted the UNH team against Trinity College.  During the second round, two members Victoria Ford and Tori Dugger also participated on a bye-buster team.  A bye-buster team is a group of students from all different teams who come together to form a team in the event there are an uneven number of teams.  Although UNH did not receive a bid to the next round in White Plains, New York, the team was proud of its stellar performance.

The tremendous amount of growth seen in the Mock Trial Team this year can be measured not only in the high scores during scrimmages but also by the excellent collaboration and camaraderie of teammates and in the growth of members as individuals.  After a season that was anything but easy, Captain Emily McGinty said, “We have come so far and we are going to continue to grow.  Every single member of the team gave so much time and energy and without their dedication we would not have made the progress we did.”  The team hopes to continue growing and continuing to climb the ranks at the regional competition.

The team restlessly waits until August for the 2012-2013 civil case.  Mock Trial is a great experience for anyone no matter whether you are a criminal justice major or a music major.  It is a place to practice public speaking, utilize your writing skills or use your acting skills, and best of all, a place to belong to a fantastic group of dedicated and creative individuals.  If you are interested in learning more about what Mock Trial involves or if you would like to become a member, please contact Emily McGinty at

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Mock Trial Attends Regional Tournament