Mock Trial Team Wins First Prestigious Ivy League Tournament

Members of Hamilton's Mock Trial team.
Members of Hamilton's Mock Trial team.

After a historic top-24 national championship finish in the 2012 season, Hamilton’s mock trial team has managed yet another impressive feat by taking home first place at the Cornell University Big Red Invitational Tournament.

The Cornell invitational is considered to be one of the most competitive mock trial tournaments in the Northeast, and after years of near-podium finishes, Hamilton shot straight to the top under the leadership of team captains Emily Tompsett ’13 and Maggie McGuire ’15. Tompsett remarked that “this tournament was the best performance I've seen by this team yet. We faced some interesting competition and I'm proud of the way the team handled it.”

This tournament’s case will continue to be used throughout the mock trial season, and was prepared by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). The case materials supplied to each team include an indictment, witness affidavits, expert reports and other evidentiary pieces that teams use to formulate a case theory, speeches and witness examinations. The attorneys and witnesses for each team then assume the roles of plaintiff or defense and face off before a panel of judges to present their case.

This year’s civil case is being brought by the husband of a deceased diver who is suing the company that led the couple’s doomed honeymoon diving vacation. The intriguing case involves accusations of gross negligence, complex scientific theory surrounding the medical condition nitrogen narcosis and a body that was never recovered.

After Hamilton’s success in reaching the 2012 national championship the team was poised for another strong year, but with the loss of graduating senior captain Tyler Roberts ’12, few predicted quite as strong a start as this one. Up until last weekend’s Cornell tournament Hamilton’s record was impressive – two top five finishes at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale Invitational tournaments and a good sportsmanship Spirit of AMTA award at the Pennsylvania State Invitational – but taking home first at a tournament as competitive as Cornell still took the team by surprise.

Attorney Daniela Manzi ’15 recalled that “[Hamilton] usually doesn’t excel at this tournament because of its timing right after winter break, and we really just wanted to hold our own against the Ivy League competition.” The team did that and more, walking away with seven of eight favorable ballots, which were enough to secure the team’s victory over competition from prestigious universities including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Johns Hopkins and Rutgers, which won second place in last year’s national championship.

Part of Hamilton’s apprehension going into Cornell was due to the number of new members it has taken on this year – more than a third of the team’s roster was new to mock trial, and captains McGuire and Tompsett were also in their first year of leadership. After returning from his semester abroad in Madrid and having his first opportunity to compete alongside these new members, veteran attorney Jason Driscoll ’14 was especially impressed. “[The new members’] effort and passion is clear. It is nice to know that the team still carries the same strong spirit that it had at the end of last season.” 

In addition to performing well as a team, Hamilton also displayed great acumen in the tournament’s recognition of individual attorney and witness performance. Witness Ian Carradine ’15 won a Best Witness award and scoring a perfect 10 on both his cross and direct examinations. Team Captain Maggie McGuire and fellow attorneys Libby Gutschenritter ’13, Marta Johnson ’13, Jason Driscoll ’14 and Amber Groves ’15 also received perfect 10s for speeches or witness examinations.

Driscoll predicted that “while [the team] has a significant amount of preparation to do before regionals, I would bet on us making it to the opening round championship series.”  He’s not alone in this feeling – a running poll of the more than 600 schools which compete in AMTA showed a dramatic spike for Hamilton’s predicted regional tournament performance after this past weekend’s victory.

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