Mock trial team heads to court

The St. John’s Mock Trial team is about to test all of its preparation and hard work. The team will compete in the National Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament, which St. John’s will also host.

The tournament takes place on Feb. 27, and the eight winners will move on to the national tournament in April. This, the 17th year of St. John’s Mock Trial team’s existence, promises to be as competitive as ever as they prepare to compete with teams. Among these 28 teams include prestigious schools such as Yale, NYU, Columbia, and Fordham.

The Mock Trial team has gone on to the regional tournament 15 out of the past 17 years. Dr. Bernard Helldorfer is responsible for pioneering the team.

Currently in his 22nd year as Director of Legal Studies, Helldorfer founded the team 17 years ago. He has since then created a very highly respected reputation for them by maintaining a highly competitive attitude throughout the team’s history.

With auditions beginning in Sept. , the team is comprised of the 10 most intelligent and promising students from the approximately 60 to 80 students who audition.

During these auditions, students are put through an intense process of testing their ability to retain material and thrive under pressure. After two rounds of cuts, only 10 students make it onto the team.

“It is my responsibility to present the best possible team, whomever that means I need to include,” said Helldorfer. “Only 10 students showed they were above the cut.”

This year’s team includes: Captain Kudakwashe Chibanda Donald Bracciodieta , Tahir Boykins, Jomaire Crawford, Jessikah Hackett, Alexis Patterson, Lisa Rodrigues, Michael Schillinger, Hadia Ali Sheerazi, and Tarunbir Singh.

“The diversity of the team is a snapshot of our University,” said Helldorfer about the team. Their closeness as a team has inspired them to work for their greater good despite the individual means by which they are judged.

This closeness is no surprise since the team prepares for their competition for about 300 hours. In this preparation, the team learns through critical assessment to compete successfully.

Each Saturday the team practices their material from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. During the week, students practice in small groups going over attorney witness material. This can add up to four to six hours a week.

This “tough love” attitude, the team feels, prepares them better not only for the competition but for life. It is the guidance of coaches Helldorfer, Oscar Holt, and Assistant Coach Kareem Vessup and the team’s unwavering dedication that has brought it so much success. This success has the team feeling positive with the prospect of competing with such big-name schools such as Yale and NYU.

“Mock trial isn’t just about thinking skills, it’s about life skills,” said Kuda Chibanda, team captain. “These skills are what drive these team members to work so hard for the future.”