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SJU Mock Trial Team Earns 20th Bid to Nationals

Friday, February 28, 2014

For the 20th time in a 22-year history of achievement, St. John’s University’s Mock Trial Team has earned a bid to the opening round of the championship series of the National Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament.

The Red Storm earned this year’s bid at the Regional Tournament hosted by the University of Delaware on February 15–16. Along with St. John’s, the other top seven teams that won bids to compete in the nationals are Princeton University, Seton Hall University, and the Universities of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

At the Regional Tournament, the team finished seventh out of 24 teams during four rounds of trial competition. The Red Storm battled to split decisions against squads from Princeton, Baltimore, and Maryland. Winning the crucial fourth-round trial against Fordham University, St. John’s finished with a record of 5–3.

“This was an extraordinary accomplishment, because nine of the 11 students are freshman and sophomore rookies doing mock trial for the first time,” said head coach Bernard Helldorfer, Esq., ’77CBA, ’80L, professor and chair of criminal justice and legal studies in the College of Professional Studies. “Not only did we earn one of the seven bids in a field of very talented teams, but the future of our team over the next several years seems very bright.”

St. John’s team consists of 11 undergraduates from a variety of majors. Along with Helldorfer, two other St. John’s alumni serve as coaches: Oscar Holt, Esq., ’73C, ’76Ed, ’79L, associate professor of criminal justice and legal studies; and Kareem Vessup, Esq., ’01CPS, ’04L.

In addition to the team’s overall success, Ashley Denton ’14C, a co-captain, was named a top-10 student attorney, with a score of 17/20.

The team now heads to Washington, D.C., where it will be among 24 teams in the Opening Round Championship Series, March 22–23. All rounds will be held in the U.S. Federal Courthouse. The top six teams from the series will advance to the Championship Finals in Orlando, FL, on April 11–13.

Each mock trial competition simulates an actual court case, with students assuming the roles of witnesses and attorneys for both plaintiff and defense. Points are awarded based on students’ individual performances.