MMI Preparatory School students won four awards during the 29th annual Monroe County Invitational Mock Trial Tournament at East Stroudsburg High School.
Junior Allison McGeehan placed third out of 66 lawyers who performed at the event. Junior Erin Sari and sophomores Jakob Schwabe and George Palermo each competed for the first time and received outstanding witness awards.
McGeehan is the daughter of Thomas and Sandra McGeehan of Drums; Sari is the daughter of Izzet and Mumine Sari of Sugarloaf; Schwabe is the son of Scott Schwabe of New York City, New York and Marybeth Hayden of Hazle Township; and Palermo is the son of George Palermo of Hoboken, New Jersey and Mary Kelly Palermo of Sugarloaf.
Eleven teams from across Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania competed in the annual tournament which is sponsored by the Monroe County Bar Association. MMI’s two teams went to trial four times and represented both the prosecution and defense.
With strong advisers from their home schools, high school students participate as attorneys and witnesses, presenting the case before a panel of jurors and the presiding judge. The local competition prepares participants for the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (YLD) Statewide Mock Trial Competition in February and March. This experience allows the students to interact with sitting judges and practicing attorneys, all volunteering their time.
This year’s trial was for a fictional criminal case entitled “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Blair Udet. Monroe State University’s security department received a report from Whitney Maddow, an on-call volunteer with MSU’s Women’s Center, concerning an alleged rape that occurred during a party at a campus fraternity house. MSU’s security department interviewed the alleged victim and Udet as well as other witnesses at the party and declined to press charges. However, an investigation was undertaken by the State Attorney General’s Office as a result of Monroe State University security’s refusal to file charges against Udet. Following a Grand Jury proceeding, Udet was indicted for rape and arrested.
Members of the mock trial teams played the roles of witnesses or attorneys for each trial. All witnesses had to undergo a direct examination from their own attorney and a cross examination from the opposing lawyer. Finally, each attorney had to complete two parts, such as an opening statement, direct examination, cross examination or closing argument. Each team had to present the defense and commonwealth sides of the case to a jury made up of practicing attorneys.
Marc Lobitz, Joshua Narrow, Ali Aijaz, Garrett Kost, Kevin Cibak, Jonathan Smith, Elliot Blasko, Brian Payne, Lauren Herman, Jacob Weiksner, and Alyssa Sweda also portrayed attorneys. Jack Malay, Hunter O’Clair, Evan Dryfoos, Mahad Muhammad, Andrew Decker, Morgan Long, Amanda Kalada-Kania, Anna Haber, and Wesley Guarneri also acted as witnesses. The team’s legal adviser is Attorney Emeline Diener.
MMI’s Mock Trial adviser Dennis Clarke said, "It was a long day, but all of the students had a good time and learned that performing after studying is the best way to learn how to conduct a trial."
MMI’s team will continue to practice in preparation for the annual Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide Mock Trial that will be held at the Federal Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre in February.