Would you rather prosecute an 11-year old boy for shooting a friend, or defend him? How about both?
The Fordham College at Lincoln Center’s (FCLC) mock trial team has done just that, and is competing in a regional competition in Philadelphia on February 7 and 8. The team, which is made up of 14 FCLC students, recently had a successful showing at the 19th annual Yale Mock Trial Invitational Tournament in December.
Fordham’s two teams finished 9-2-1 in one division, placing them ahead of teams from Harvard University, Yale University, and Princeton University and at 8-3-1 in another, ahead of Brown University, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University.
Mock team president Bianca Bernardi, a senior majoring in political science, credited the team’s success to rigorous twice-weekly practice sessions and coaching from head coach and Fordham alumnus Kavin Thadani, FCLC’ 06, and assistant coaches Olatokunbo Olaniyan, Alex Gottfried, and Anthony DiSenso, FCLC ’06.
“You have to go into one round thinking, ‘This guy definitely did it; this 11-year-old intentionally shot this other 11-year-old,” she said.
“And then the next round you have to say ‘This kid is innocent; it was an accident; it definitely wasn’t supposed to happen this way.’ So you have to change your mindset right in the moment, once you get the call.”
The biggest challenge, she said, is making split-second decisions to respond to arguments presented by the opposing team. It’s not enough to just memorize voluminous information about case law, she said; you have to be able to be able to think fast.
On top of that, a team’s performance needs to be believable. Bernardi said that although many members of the team participate with one eye on law school, they’ve also recruited theater majors who can play expert witnesses or character witnesses. Bernard was a newcomer to mock last year when she transferred to Fordham from the New School, but she found it to be an easy fit.
“Besides being a stepping stone for law school, I see it as a really fun activity. It’s very competitive. So if you like competitive things, its something you can easily get addicted to,” she said.