Mock Trial Team Earns Spirit of Empire Award

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The high school’s Mock Trial team won the Spirit of Empire Award at the 2016 Empire World Mock Trial Championship. The award is granted to the school that shows the highest standards of civility and professionalism throughout the tournament.

The Empire tournament, held from Nov. 11-13 at the Federal Courthouse at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, brought together more than 700 students from 40 schools spanning seven nations. Each team was given a form to nominate another team for positive qualities including fair play and friendliness.

East Islip’s team consisted of juniors Alise Colandro, Jessica Muroff and Katrina Shea; sophomores Steven Gieseler Jr., Josh Koretz, Madison Lane, Emma McGaugh, Christian Thomesen and Meghan Walsh; and freshmen Shannon Dudenhoff, Matthew Micalizzi and Tyler O’Neill. The team commuted from home each day. In addition to the competition, the students also attended the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as a tour of One World Trade Center.

In Mock Trial, students prepare and conduct a legal case based a hypothetical problem. Students acting as attorneys must prepare and perform opening and closing statements, direct and cross examinations, and evidentiary arguments. Student playing witnesses must memorize witness affidavits and then testify at trial as those witnesses. During a trial, two schools compete against each other, with one arguing for the prosecution and the other for the defense. Schools switch sides for each round of a tournament.

In this year’s Empire problem, a federal terrorism case, the defendant, an American citizen, was accused of conspiring with a foreign terrorist organization to plant bombs at two different hotels and of carrying out a mass shooting. Students had to prepare to argue both prosecution and defense sides of the case. In addition, one student attorney had to make a pretrial motion to suppress evidence and withstand intense questioning on constitutional issues by the presiding judge.

To prepare, East Islip’s students worked almost every day after school as well as on Saturday mornings from September through November, dealing with incredibly challenging case materials that numbered more than 400 pages. Witness affidavits averaged 11-15 pages, and student attorneys were required to memorize and be conversant with the Federal Rules of Evidence.

East Islip’s prosecution team faced Trumbull High School from Connecticut and Sylvania Southview High School from Ohio, while the defense team faced John Adams High School from Indiana and Cape Elizabeth High School from Maine. East Islip won two of four rounds, and at closing ceremonies, was honored with the Spirit of Empire Award. 

“Our team is proud and honored to have been chosen by our peers to be the recipients of this award,” said teacher Patricia Lester, the club’s coach. “We are grateful for the support of the district, the Board of Education, the parents, and the community. We also wish to extend special thanks to our attorney advisor, Brian Mitchell; to Professor Tracy Norton-McGaugh and the staff and students of Touro Law School for their guidance, to Officer Ivan Rivera of the Port Authority Police Department for giving us a guided tour of One World Trade Center; and to Tina Gieseler for acting as chaperone and ‘team mom’ throughout the weekend.”