It’s No Mockery

  
Guest Feature by Professor James Castagna, JD

The Mock Trial Team at the Regional Tournament at St. John's University with Professor Castagna (far left).

Jesse Dwyer, one of the students playing an attorney on the Pace University Mock Trial Team, commented at the recent American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) Regional Tournament held at St. John’s University, “We’ve finally put Pace University on the map!” At least, that is, on the highly competitive and prestigious College Mock Trial map. With a brilliant summation for the defense, Dwyer is part of a team of 11 undergraduate students. Hailing from the Lubin and Dyson Schools, most team members are pre-law minors.

Mock Trial requires students to play the roles of attorneys and witnesses on both the prosecution and defense, of a real-to-life trial simulation in intercollegiate competition on a national level. This roster includes most of the Ivy League institutions.

This year the trial dealt with a conflict among three entertainment industry business partners over a lucrative buy-out offer, which led to the murder of its major partner. The minor partners were the alleged co-conspirators in the murder. Sarah Gargiulo, playing a passionate prosecution attorney stated so definitively in her opening statement for the defense: “A desperate gambler led to a desperate act, which led to a deadly outcome!” Team co-captains and lead attorneys—the only team members who played roles on both sides of the simulation—Kristin Porro and Justin Teitell supported the team through the mysterious and idiosyncratic twists and turns of the trial.

The case exposed the unsavory underworld in the State of Midlands (the imaginary state of the United States where the trial takes place) including the possible motive behind the murder being the desperation of a gambling addict who was facing threats on his life from the casinos and bookies. This role was played brilliantly by Joseph Saparano who won the well-deserved and highly coveted Award as Outstanding Witness at the Awards Ceremony. The defendant’s co-conspirator in crime was played by both Tanish Sethi and Amanda Codd.

Also winning acclaim of the judges was Leo Kreizman, who played the nerdy college student who happened to be the only eyewitness to the murder, and Annaliese Blumstein who played the self-absorbed alibi witness-actress who had lost her career due to her lack of social graces at the “Academy Awards.” (Many thought both Leo and Anneliese deserved their own Academy Awards!)

Perhaps, the most difficult witness roles were those of two crime scene experts who were played convincingly by real life forensics student, Christine Toledo, and first-year student, Tasha Schmidt. Their testimony required a working knowledge of complicated scientific research and principles.

Although the team just fell short of qualifying for the Opening Round of the National Competition that was held this year at Pace University Law School, AMTA offered them the position of stand-by team due to their outstanding performance at regionals.

Professor James Castagna, Department of Legal Studies and Taxation, Lubin School of Business, the team’s  persistent (and tired) coach, drilled the students on the complicated hearsay rule and guided them through all the possible variations of trial strategies. Although he was proud of their performance against teams such as Columbia University, Fordham University, CUNY, and Lafayette College, Professor Castagna also noted that the strength of their teamwork skills and their collegiality was equally impressive.

If you know of any undergraduate student who is interested in being a part of the Pace University Mock Trial Team effort next year, please contact Professor Castagna at jcastagna@pace.edu.

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