February 11, 2013
The St. John’s University Mock Trial team has earned a bid to
the opening round of the Championship Series of the National
Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament. In four rounds of
trial competition, the Red Storm finished third out of 21 teams at
the Regional Tournament hosted by Roger Williams University, RI, on
February 1–3, 2013.
Defeating squads from Princeton, Kings College, and the U.S. Coast
Guard Academy, St. John’s earned a split decision with Fordham to
finish with a record of 6–1–1. This marks the 19th time in the
team’s 21 years that it has received a bid to move on to the
nationals. The top seven teams to move forward include
Fordham, Kings College, University of Pennsylvania, Brown
University, Harvard, and Roger Williams.
“This has been one of the finest performances at regionals
in the history of the team,” said Bernard Helldorfer, Esq., ’77CBA,
’80L, professor and director of the legal studies program in the
College of Professional Studies.
Helldorfer is co-coach of the Mock Trial team, which consists of 11
undergraduate students from across the University. Also serving as
co-coaches are Oscar Holt, Esq., ’73C, ’76Ed, ’79L, associate
professor of criminal justice and legal studies, and Kareem Vessup,
Esq., ’01CPS, ’04L, adjunct professor of criminal justice and legal
In addition to the bid, St. John’s had the highest-ranked student
witness in the tournament, Ashley Denton ’14C, and the
highest-ranked student attorney, team co-captain Peter Ozelius
’13C. Ms Denton was the only student in the tournament to earn a
perfect score of 20/20 while Mr. Ozelius scored a near-perfect
19/20. Co-captain Xuan Gong ’13C also received a top 10 student
attorney award with a score of 17/20.
“Not only did we take third place in a field of very talented
teams, but to have the highest-ranked student in both the attorney
and witness categories is truly an extraordinary accomplishment for
our students,” Helldorfer said.
The competition simulated a real court case, with students playing
the roles of attorneys for both plaintiff and defense, as well as
witnesses. Points were awarded based on students’ individual
performances. The case was a civil lawsuit for wrongful death
brought by the spouse of a person who perished during a scuba
diving expedition to a sunken yacht. The spouse claimed extreme
recklessness on the part of the diving outfit that organized and
guided the dive.
St. John’s looks forward to the Championship Series in Philadelphia
on March 23–24. All trials will be held in the U.S. Federal
Courthouse. The top six teams from this Championship Series will
then advance to the Championship Finals in Washington, D.C., on
April 12–14, to determine the national champion.