Valley Torah Boys Return to statewide Mock Trial Tournament – now on zoom

In the first week of September, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) announced the restart of the National Mock Trial Competition. This year the CRF announced that while the organization is not canceling the competition due to COVID-19, they will complete the competition via Zoom. What this meant for David Kerendian (’22) and I (’22), co-captains of the VTHS boys’ team, was countless zoom calls analyzing the case packet, assigning team roles, and preparing team members for their respective roles.

The defendant of this year’s case, celebrity Youtuber Lee Croddy, used his channel “The Right Choice of News” to rant about government conspiracies. According to the facts of the case, the defendant asked a loyal follower of his, Remi Montoya, to “get” government documents (about UFOs) from Government Official Drew Marshak to expose the government. Montoya went to Officer Marshak’s house, and when he saw the Officer was not home, broke in and stole the documents. After all of this, Montoya went back to the defendant and took shelter at the YouTube celebrity’s house for the night. The next day, Montoya was arrested for his burglary, but a few days later, the defendant was arrested on two charges: aiding and abetting the thievery and acting as an accessory to Montoya after the deed. The defense argues that Croddy told his fan to “get” the documents and Montoya took it to the extreme and stole the documents. The prosecution argued differently, saying that Croddy insisted repeatedly to get the documents and with such insistence plus saying “you have to get those documents” implying to take the documents with any force needed, including thievery especially because Croddy said he would take the documents by force if necessary. The concept of groupthink was also assessed.
The exciting part of participating in Mock Trial is that it allows one to test their talents in a variety of ways for different careers: if one is interested in law, one can be a trial attorney; if one is interested in becoming a doctor or psychologist, there is always an expert witness for both the prosecution and defense which involves a lot of knowledge of sociology, accidents, and health. Lastly, if one wants to join theater or go into the arts, acting is always pushed to its limits to reenact these characters.
The way the CRF competition works is that schools all over the state come together (this year via zoom) and compete with each other, one school starting with the prosecution and the other ending with the defense. Then, a week later, each school would join back together and play a different school and argue the other half of the case. For example, in November, we joined on zoom with a high school homeschool group and played the defense, and a week later we played a different school with us playing the prosecution this time. These two teams reenact this trial and a real judge decides the verdict. Scorers then “grade” everyone’s skills and later, every school gets their scores plus the total of the opposing school’s scores.
After rigorous tryouts, David and I made up our minds as to who was accepted onto the team. For the defense, Schneur Friedman, a sophisticated and excellent speaker, would give over the pretrial motion. David Kerendian (‘22) gave over the opening statements for the defense. Eliyahu Kublin (‘21) would play the defendant Lee Croddy. Also, Coby Barnett (‘21) and Ariel Kohanteb (‘24) would play witnesses with Jacob Manela (‘23) playing the expert witness. Lastly,
David would give the closing statements while Ahron Riss (‘23) would play bailiff. All this time, David and I acted as lead attorneys for our and the prosecution’s witnesses.
For the prosecution, Schneur would again give over the pretrial motion. I would give over the opening statements and Eliyahu would play the flip side of defense: key witness Remi Montoya. Also, Ariel Nourollah (‘22) and Gabi Tabarzia (‘24) would play witnesses with Jacob again playing the expert witness, this time for prosecution. Lastly, David would give the closing statements while Aaron would play clerk this time. Throughout all the witnesses, again David and I would act as attorneys.

For over a few months, the team worked diligently with practice after practice every week. And finally on November 2nd for the defense and November 10th for the prosecution, we entered our trial on zoom. The team did great! With months of practice on our shoulders, the defense won the verdict for aiding and abetting the burglary but lost the verdict with the judge saying Croddy did not act as an accessory after the crime. However, for the prosecution, when the judge announced his verdict, we won both of them. Now we had to wait: the way Mock Trial eliminates teams and moves schools up to the next round of the competition is that any team that does not win a verdict on both trial dates is automatically eliminated; luckily, we won by both dates. The CRF’s second qualification to join the second round is not only to outscore your opposing teams pointwise but also to have the top 10 points of any school in your city. While
we did not make this list, and we did not make the second round, we all still had a blast!
From this year’s trial, even though we did not make it to round 2, we are more prepared than ever for next year! Next year, with only three of our team members seniors as opposed to last year with six seniors, we have most of the team already built. With a minimum of three new members for next year, plus a team with a lot of practice under their belts already, we are going to get those missing points we need to take the next step.

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