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Barrett Anderson ’12 and Nila Bala ’12 Take Top Prizes in Barristers’ Union Mock Trial Finals

The final round of the Thomas Swan Barristers’ Union Mock Trial Competition was held Wednesday, April 28, at Yale Law School. Judge Jed S. Rakoff, S.D.N.Y., presided over the fictional case, State v. Harmon, which was adapted for the competition by Barristers’ Union board members Sarah Chervinsky ’11 and Danielle Sassoon ’11. The case was argued by YLS student finalists Barrett Anderson ’12 and Joshua Braver ’11 representing the state, and Nila Bala ’12 and Josiah Pertz ’12 representing the defendant.

The defendant, Michael Harmon, an aging professional hockey player known for his tendency to brawl on and off the ice, was charged with murdering Tony Sturmanis, his personal and professional rival, during a playoff game. In his opening statement, Joshua Braver argued that the defendant’s guilt was supported by the “simple facts of the case”—facts that could not be “changed or avoided by the defense.” The defense argued that the fatal blow to Sturmanis came in the context of a “hockey fight gone wrong” and that if anyone was to blame, “hockey was to blame.” The jurors seemed particularly moved by the dramatic in-court reenactment of the showdown between the defendant and victim performed by Josiah Pertz and his witness, the game’s referee, during which the referee raised a hockey stick above his head and charged towards Pertz waving the stick and screaming.

Barrett Anderson’s fiery summation for the state earned him the coveted John Fletcher Caskey Prize for best presentation of a case on final trial. Nila Bala was awarded the John Currier Gallagher Prize for showing the most proficiency in the presentation of a case on final trial. Bala had delivered a particularly scathing cross-examination of Mrs. Harmon, culminating with the witness’s admission that she was testifying because she hoped her husband “would fry for his crime.” Judge Rakoff, who managed to entertain the jurors and the gallery by weaving a seemingly endless stream of hockey puns into his evidentiary rulings, was presented with a commemorative gavel.

The Thomas Swan Barristers’ Union sponsors a mock trial competition every spring semester at Yale Law School. Students act as attorneys and simulate a jury trial, performing pre-trial motions, opening statements, direct and cross examinations, and closing arguments. The competition culminates in a championship trial, over which a sitting Federal District Judge presides.