The Cazenovia High School Mock Trial team with coach Elizabeth Koennecke, far left, and Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice Deborah H. Karalunas, middle. (submitted photo)
By Jason Emerson
The Cazenovia High School Mock Trial team has won the Onondaga County High School Mock Trial competition after defeating the defending Mock Trial State Champions from Fayetteville-Manlius High School in a two-hour proceeding at the Onondaga County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 12.
Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice Deborah H. Karalunas presided over the mock case, Robin Berkman v. County of Dover, a malicious prosecution brought by an exonerated plaintiff (Robin Berkman). Central to this mock civil suit, Berkman had been convicted of burglary and attempted murder and sent to prison. There, Robin, who always denied committing the crime, contacted the Actual Innocence Project. Next, Robin brought the case against the county once the true perpetrator came forward and confessed to the convenience store burglary and attempted murder charges.
As the winners of the county competition, the Cazenovia team, along with their advisor Elizabeth Koennecke, who is a Social Security Administration administrative judge, will be guests at the upcoming Law Day celebration and breakfast on Tuesday, May 2, at the OnCenter Ballroom where team members will each receive a plaque in honor of their hard work.
The local High School Mock Trial tournament began on Thursday, March 2, and ran for six weeks. Fourteen high schools participated, including Cazenovia, Chittenango, Christian Brothers Academy, Cortland, East Syracuse-Minoa, Fayetteville-Manlius, Jamesville-DeWitt, Jordan-Elbridge, Lafayette, Liverpool, Marcellus, Nottingham, Tully and Westhill, Nottingham High School, once again, hosted the majority of the weekly competitions that winnowed the teams down to Cazenovia and Fayetteville-Manlius.
For Cazenovia, both the quarter final round against Christian Brothers Academy and the semi-final round against East Syracuse-Minoa were hard-fought victories with the Caz team trying out new strategies and facing some significant push-back from the other teams, according to coach Elizabeth Koennecke. The best judging of the season came from a volunteer who had competed in high school, college and law school, offering the Cazenovia students strategies for “playing the game,” Koennecke said.
With their county-level victory, Cazenovia High School now moves on to the New York State Bar Association Region 2 Mock Trial Series championship Saturday, April 22, at the Tompkins County Courthouse. The state championship will be held in Albany and is slated for May 21 to 23, where the victors from the state’s eight regions will compete.
The High School Mock Trial educational program teaches students how to maneuver in the complex setting of a courtroom applying what they’ve learned about presenting opening and closing statements, providing clear arguments and analyzing legal issues and the law. Mock trial also teaches students how to think on their feet and reminds them that good sportsmanship, respect and civility has a place in all contexts.
For more information about the New York State High School Mock Trial Competition, visit nysba.org/NYSMockTrial.
Zane Anthony, Grade 10
Nick Barna, Grade 11
Olivia Carroll, Grade 11
Madeline Gavitt, Grade 10
Will Huftalen, Grade 11
Siobhan Kiernan, Grade 12
Eric Liddell, Grade 11
Emily Mahoney, Grade 12
Claire Murray, Grade 11
Claire Murray, Grade 11
Brier Ossont, Grade 11
Eva Salzman, Grade 10
Megan Schwartz, Grade 11
Mackenzie Yates, Grade 10
Team Coach: Elizabeth Koennecke, Esq,
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.