A Taste of the Real Thing: Utica University Mock Trial Goes to Regionals
"This time is spent working together to create a theme, develop a case, start thinking about potential witnesses to call, direct/cross examining those witnesses, writing and practicing speeches (opening and closing statements), and so much more."
Mock trial; the club exclusively for students who strive to become lawyers someday, right? Wrong. While you are likely to find a few future lawyers who are a part of the mock trial team, it is a place for any student who enjoys a good argument and is willing to put in the work.
And put in the work they did, with this year’s Utica University Mock Trial team making it all the way to regional competition in Buffalo in February. Tournament coordinator and mock trial “big sister,” as they call her, Brooke Riscica '22, compares preparing for a regional mock trial competition to a sports team practicing throughout the season.
Riscica, a Criminal Intelligence Analysis alum who graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2022, is currently committed to Albany Law School.
“Typically, the team will practice together 2-3 days a week. This time is spent working together to create a theme, develop a case, start thinking about potential witnesses to call, direct/cross examine those witnesses, writing and practicing speeches (opening and closing statements), and so much more,” she explains.
Outside of practice, the team members are expected to continue to put in the work, practicing their speeches, and meeting with their fellow teammates to discuss additional strategy, much like athletes are expected to hit the weight room outside of their designated practice times if they want to be successful and stand out.
Unlike the average sports team, however, in mock trial there really is no “off season.” In between competition seasons, the team brainstorms fundraising and recruitment ideas for the upcoming season. When the case is finally released to teams in August it is non-stop preparing for the upcoming competition season, dissecting every detail of the case and strategizing potential theories for the prosecution and defense to explore.
While the Utica team did not advance to the subsequent level of competition following regionals, their team had a very successful run with various stand-out award winners, including Dzana Borovic for outstanding witness, Megan Tierney for outstanding attorney, and Randall Chiera for outstanding witness, and the only witness in the competition to score perfectly on every ballot.
Even though their season has come to an end, the members of mock trial are currently planning for next season, hoping to put their team in the best position to succeed, and hopefully advance past regionals next year. But no matter the outcome of the competition, they are sure to have a good time along the way.
Mock Trial Faculty Advisor Professor Bernard Hyman calls the season the best since he began as the team’s coach, noting the team’s five individual awards at regionals. “While the team celebrates the individual accomplishments of those awardees, I credit the entire team for their commitment to each other's success. By far, I have never seen a team this devoted to one another and the team mission.”
At the end of the final round of regionals, the group shared an emotional moment as they realized that this was the last time this team would compete together.
“It was a moment filled with both happiness and sadness when we realized that five of our eleven members would be moving on,” Professor Hyman said. “While they will be missed, we will continue their mission going forward. Our goal for next year is to win at regionals and earn a bid to the Opening Round Championship Series. I have no doubt that the remaining core of the team will take us there by persisting in their loyalty and devotion to the mission and each other.”
- written by Victoria DeLuca '24
- photos courtesy of Brooke Riscica '22
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