April 24, 2014
This past Sunday, April 20, the Hamilton College Mock Trial team hosted its first ever on-campus Mock Trial Invitational. After boasting a positive record during the competitive season, defined by countless victories at private invitationals across the Northeast, the organization invited teams from Cornell University and the University of Rochester to compete here at home. Emphasizing the importance of building relationships with other teams in the area, the Hamilton Invitational was complete with networking sessions, social events and team brunches.
While the post-season competition was friendly and relaxed, intended mainly to showcase the sport to the community, Hamilton again demonstrated the strength of its program by going undefeated against the nation’s top competitors. In addition to carrying the first place trophy, Defense Attorney Jason Driscoll ’14, Prosecution Attorney Maggie McGuire ’15, Prosecution Witness Ian Carradine ’15 (playing barman Billie Isaacs) and Defense Witness Purujith Gautam ’16 (playing limo driver Charlie Kaminsky) received outstanding performance awards.
Preparation for the invitation began last semester, in September, when the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) released this year’s criminal case packet. The packet includes a detailed fact pattern related to the indictment of defendant Whit Bowman, an amusement park employee charged with theft by deception, first-degree robbery, and felony murder all on a theory of complicity. Teams must prepare a case for both the Prosecution and Defense, which includes the preparation of eleven witness statements, the outlining of Direct and Cross Examinations, and the drafting of Opening and Closing Statements. After a season of hard work and competition, AMTA releases updates to the case, which was the substance of last weekend’s trials.
While Mock Trials are normally conducted in front of two or three experienced judges, who each score and rank the competitors, Hamilton decided to mix up the format by introducing a seven-person jury. The challenges of convincing two judges of these charges is hard enough by most team’s standards, so by introducing a larger jury of laypeople teams had to adjust their framing of the charges, language, and presentation. Delivering two verdicts of “not guilty,” the jury this past weekend was unconvinced that the Prosecution was able to meet its high burden of beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to the charges. Some enjoyed and took advantage of the addition of a Jury, including Hamilton’s own Purujith Gautam, who claimed that he “could use the suaveness of his character-heavy witness (the limo driver Charlie Kaminsky) to sway the Jury toward the defense.”
In the end, the two visiting teams expressed a high level of satisfaction for how the tournament was run. Patrick Bedard ’14, Assistant Captain in charge of organizing the tournament, was proud to help showcase Hamilton’s Mock Trial program to the Hamilton community at large. Berdard commented,“Our spectators and supporters are essential for our team’s success throughout the season and we wanted to give back by showing how strong our program truly is.”