Tufts Mock Trial team wins 6th place at national tournament

Tufts Mock Trial co-captains Ellie Powers, '18, and Ben Reytblat, '18, pose for a portrait in the Science and Engineering Complex on April 17, 2018. Kenar Haratunian / The Tufts Daily

Last Friday, April 20, the Tufts Mock Trial A-team finished sixth place in the annual American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) National Championship Tournament, according to sophomore and A-team member Arvind Goday. The tournament took place in Minneapolis, Minn., and was hosted by Hamline University, according to Mock Trial co-president and A-team co-captain Ben Reytblat, a senior.

While Mock Trial teams across the country have worked on the same case over the course of the season at tournaments, providing them multiple opportunities to develop their ideas, AMTA presented a brand new case for the National Championship Tournament, according to Reytblat. Furthermore, this is the first Mock Trial tournament ever to feature a federal case, which is about a bank robbery.

After two years of failing to advance to the national round of competition, the A-team joined the top 48 teams that advance to Nationals, according to the tournament website. With only two upperclassmen, Tufts’ A-team is one of the youngest teams to make it to nationals, according to Reytblat.

Reytblat added that what makes Tufts Mock Trial unique to the competition is that it is completely student-run.

“Almost every program in the American Mock Trial Association is coached, and their coaches are coaches that they’ve had for sometimes over 30i years,” Reytblat said.

Eleanor Powers, co-president of Mock Trial and co-captain of the A-team, concurred.

“For most coached programs, unless you’re a senior, the coaches write your content for you. So they will give you a statement and say memorize this, whereas we all write our own content,” Powers said.

First-year William Porter, who won an outstanding witness award at the conference, added that because Tufts Mock Trial is completely student-run, it is an outlet for creativity.

As implied by its name, Mock Trial is an imitation of court trials. Before the competition, teams receive a packet with information regarding the case, including profiles of witnesses and defendants, all of whom are played by the teams, according to Reytblat.

“You’re basically putting on a play, and it’s a courtroom drama, and you are in real time getting to see the reactions of the audience, which are the judges in that particular round,” Reytblat said.

While Tufts Mock Trial prepares by creating scripts, they must also be ready to respond to the uncertainty of their competitors, according to Powers.

“I love Mock Trial because it is a mix of acting, improv and debate,” Powers, a senior, said. “You have to be intelligent. You have to think well on your feet. You have to know all of the rules and how to explain them to people. You have to have a good sense of humor.”

Sophomore Katherine Milano, who has been competing as part of mock trial teams for six years now, also emphasized the importance of team camaraderie.

“I think what makes Mock Trial really special is the team aspect. The fact that you are working with six other people,” Milano said. “Every single thing you do, you do with your team.”

To prepare for Nationals, the A-team practiced every day for two to three hours and have formed a scrimmage team of first-years and sophomores, according to Reytblat.

“The goal of the scrimmage team is to basically be as big of an obstacle for us during our scrimmages so that we can pick up on all of our weaknesses before heading to nationals,” Reytblat said.

A-team members expressed excitement about reconnecting with friends on other teams at the competition.

“Everybody who goes to Nationals is incredible,” Powers said. “Because it is just a small pool of people, it is really the best of the best that go. We have made a lot of friends, so my personal excitement is seeing all these friends that we’ve made throughout the year.”

As with any Mock Trial competition, the teams are judged by professional lawyers, who score the teams on a scale from one to 10, according to sophomore Oliver Marsden.

“It is such an adrenaline rush because you are in front of real lawyers. It is really exhilarating to be pretending to be what they do for a living. And it is really magical when things go right, and it is hilarious when they go wrong. So it’s basically a win-win,” Marsden said.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify that Benjamin Reytblat is a senior, not a junior. The Daily regrets this error.