American Mock Trial Association

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Two Lawrence University Students Earn Outstanding Witness Awards at Mock Trial Tournament

APPLETON, WIS. — Two members of Lawrence University’s mock trial team made impressive debuts at a recent tournament in Milwaukee.

Sophomores Caitlin Fish and Karl Hailperin, neither of whom had any previous college mock trial experience, both earned outstanding witness awards March 1 for their performance at the 23-team American Mock Trial Association regional tournament hosted by Marquette University.

Fish and Hailperin were two of just 12 students recognized as outstanding witnesses from among nearly 100 students who participated in the tournament as witnesses. Fish portrayed defense witness Jan Patel, a star-crazed janitor, while Hailperin played Mickey McQuiggan, a crime scene investigator for the plaintiff.

Fish was ranked the top witness by 19 of 20 judges, placing her among the top four witnesses at the tournament. Hailperin earned top rankings from 17 of 20 judges.

The tournament “trial” was based on a libel lawsuit in which gubernatorial candidate Drew Walton sued the Blitz News Network (BNN) for reporting that Walton shot Lane Hamilton, a Midlands University Professor. Walton maintained that Hamilton committed suicide. Walton had to prove BNN published a false and defamatory statement of fact that damaged him, acting with reckless disregard of the truth in the process.

A total of 13 Lawrence students — 11 of whom had no previous mock trial experience — competed on two teams in the tournament, which included teams from the University of Chicago, Hamline University, Lake Forest College, the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University, among others.

Amy Risseeuw, an attorney with the Appleton law firm Peterson, Berk & Cross, is the coach of Lawrence’s mock trial team, while Assistant Professor of Government Steve Wulf serves as the team’s faculty advisor.

“I was very proud of the accomplishments of both of Lawrence’s teams,” said Risseeuw. “I was especially pleased with the work of Karl and Caitlin. Not only did they have an excellent command of their materials, they presented full-bodied witnesses with unique personalities. Their commitment to their characters allowed them to rise above the other competitors.”

Lawrence University’s Leila Sahar Earns “Outstanding Witness” Award at Mock Trial National Tournament

Sophomore Leila Sahar registered a perfect score en route to earning an “outstanding witness” award for Lawrence University’s mock trial team at the national tournament held March 17-19 at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn.

Sahar, who portrayed Jordan Nathanson, a criminal profiler for the FBI, shared top point honors in the outstanding witness competition with Alex Durst of the University of Cincinnati.

She was one of six students representing Lawrence at the American Mock Trial Association’s 48-team national tournament. Lawrence, in just its second year of mock trial competition, qualified for the national tournament after placing seventh among 20 teams at the regional tournament at Marquette University in mid-February.

Lawrence competed against the University of Cincinnati, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Western Michigan University and Iowa State University at the national tournament, finishing with 2.5 points out of a maximum of eight.

The 48-team field was divided into two divisions, with Penn State University winning Lawrence’s division and the University of Alabama-Birmingham finishing first in the other. The top three teams in each division advance to the national championship tournament April 7-9 in Des Moines, Iowa. A second 48-team national tournament was held at Stetson University in Florida.

“In mock trial competition, teams aren’t divided by school size, so Lawrence is almost always competing against much larger universities,” said John Peterson, an Appleton attorney who serves as the team’s trial coach. “The teams competing at the national tournament tend to be schools with long-standing programs which are frequently part of the academic curriculum. Lawrence really caught everyone’s attention by reaching the national tournament in just its second year of competition.

“And Leila selection for the outstanding witness award was a terrific and well-deserved individual honor for her as well,” Peterson added.

The tournament is divided into four rounds of trials with teams competing head to-head either as the prosecution or as the defense before a pair of judges. All trials are based on the same case — State of Midlands v. Tyler Perry — in which Perry is charged with kidnapping his employer’s child and chaining the child to a water pipe. The child is found three days later in good health before the requested ransom of $300,000 is paid.

Each team is responsible for presenting opening statements, examination and cross-examination of witnesses and closing statements in each round. The judges award each team points based on their courtroom decorum, which side presented a more compelling case as well as other courtroom events.

Also competing for Lawrence were senior Tim Ruberton, who portrayed a defense attorney and witness Donny Walsh, an investigator for the sheriff’s department; junior Candice Gangle, who portrayed the defendant, Tyler Perry and Ryan Reynolds, the mother of the kidnapped victim; junior Maggie Helms and senior Serene Sahar, both of whom served as prosecuting attorneys and defense lawyers; and sophomore Valerie Raedy, who played witness Frankie Gustavo, a liquor store owner. Marti Hemwall, dean of student academic services, serves as the team’s faculty advisor.

Lawrence University Qualifies Two Teams for National Semifinals of Mock Trial Competition

Competing against such long-time mock trial “Goliaths” as the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Northwestern University, Lawrence University’s fledging second-year squad of make-believe defense attorneys, prosecutors and witnesses acquitted themselves so well at the recent American Mock Trial Association regional competition that they earned an invitational to the national semifinals.

Lawrence’s two entries in the 20-team (representing 13 institutions) regional competition at Marquette University Feb. 18-19 both earned bids to the 48-team national semifinal tournament March 17-19 at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. The other national semifinal will be held March 10-12 at Stetson University in Florida. The top six finishing teams at each semifinal advance to the national championship tournament April 7-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.

A maximum of two teams from any one school is allocated bids to the national semifinals following regional competition. Lawrence’s two teams earned invitations by finishing seventh and 10th. Only UW-Madison (1st, 6th) and Northwestern University (2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th) finished ahead of Lawrence’s top team. While both teams qualified, Lawrence declined its second bid and will select just one eight-person squad from among its 15-member team to represent the college at the national semifinals.

In addition to qualifying both teams for the national semifinals, two Lawrence students were recognized with individual awards. Senior Loni Philbrick-Linzmeyer and sophomore Caitlin Gallogly were two of 12 students cited with “outstanding witness awards” for their work portraying various witnesses in the trial.

“At most of the larger schools, mock trial is part of the curriculum in communication arts,” said John Peterson, an Appleton attorney who serves as the team’s trial coach. “It’s particularly gratifying to see Lawrence’s program progress so fast as an extracurricular activity.”

First held in 1985, the mock trial program is designed to provide undergraduate students opportunities to learn first-hand about the work of trial attorneys, understand the judicial system, develop critical thinking and enhance communication skills.

This year’s mock trial competition was based on a kidnapping case involving a 13-year old child. All teams are given pertinent information about the case in question, then 30 minutes before the start of each round, team members are assigned roles as either prosecutors, defense counselors or witnesses. Testimony and arguments are then made before practicing attorneys who serve as judges for the competition.

Members of Lawrence’s seventh place finishing team included seniors Philbrick-Linzmeyer and Tim Ruberton, juniors Candice Gangle and Maggie Helms, sophomores Katie Gladych and Leila Sahar and freshman Matt Sennewald.

Representing Lawrence’s 10th-place team in the regional were Gallogly, seniors Jeremy Bamsch, Evan Fye, Jonathon Horne, Serene Sahar and Markus Specks. Sophomore Valerie Raedy is also a member of the mock trial team but performed in Lawrence’s opera production last weekend and was unable to make the trip to Marquette. Marti Hemwall, dean of student academic services, serves as faculty advisor for the team.

Finishing behind Lawrence’s top team, UW-Madison and Northwestern at the regional competition were the host institution Marquette, the University of Chicago, Carthage College, Luther College, Northern Michigan University, St. John’s/St. Benedict’s College, Winona State University, UW-La Crosse, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Platteville.