Last month, Buffalo State hosted the American Mock Trial Association’s 2018 Great Lakes Regional Tournament, drawing 20 college and university teams from across neighboring states. Jon Lines, lecturer of political science, and Kelly Boos, executive assistant to the dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, organized and hosted the tournament. It has been held at Buffalo State annually since 2011.
Buffalo State’s team members were students Jalon Bobb, Andrew Butt (team captain), Kayla Kopinski, Jessa Matteson, Ta’Nira Newton, Chelsea Nowicki, and Camilla Reyes. David Ben-Merre, associate professor of English, was the team coach.
Ben-Merre, who serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the American Mock Trial Association, competed on the Johns Hopkins University team while a student there. He co-wrote this year’s case, the State of Midlands v. Dylan Hendricks. The defendant Dylan, a lonely food truck operator of Souper Soups, met Carmen Bell-Leon on an online dating app called Tender. The prosecution alleges that Carmen conspired with Dylan to murder Carmen’s spouse Kerry Bell-Leon, asserting that Dylan followed Kerry home, snuck into the Bell-Leon apartment with a gun, and attacked Kerry. When the gun was knocked out of Dylan’s hands, Dylan grabbed the closest thing—an extension cord—and tried to strangle Kerry until a neighbor intervened. Kerry swears the attacker was Dylan, but the apartment was dark, Kerry was high on a drug called “Everest,” and Dylan claims to have been miles away at the time.
Each trial has two scoring judges who give points for each team’s performance during the opening statement, direct examination, witness performances, cross-examination, and closing arguments. The winner is the team that earns the most points. Individuals earn points, too, as witnesses and attorneys.
Buffalo State finished with one win, one tie, and received honorable mention for the “Spirit of AMTA” award, which recognizes the team that best exemplifies the ideals of “civility, justice, and fair play.” Sophomore Nowicki received 13 points acting as defense attorney and 12 points acting as prosecutor, narrowly missing out on a “top attorney” award. Freshman Reyes was the top witness for Buffalo State, scoring eight points. Competing colleges included Canisius, Cornell, Syracuse, and the University at Buffalo.
“Networking with so many intelligent and kind people has made this experience worth while,” said Nowicki. “I'm looking forward to next year!”
“Our students were all doing this for the first time, and it was really incredible seeing them in action,” said Ben-Merre. “I think Mock Trial is a great experience for any career that values public speaking, critical thinking and analysis, teamwork, and mentoring. By doing Mock Trial, students begin to see what they do in college is relevant well beyond the walls of the classroom.”
Pictured left to right: Coach Ben-Merre with team members Newton, Bobb, Reyes, Nowicki, Kopinski, Butt, and Matteson.
For more information about Buffalo State mock trial, contact Ben-Merre.