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Edinboro University Mock Trial team earns multiple outstanding tournament awards

Posted on March 18th, 2019 at 8:49 AM
Edinboro University Mock Trial team earns multiple outstanding tournament awards

It has always been a dream for Emily Maziarz to become a lawyer. 

The Buffalo, N.Y. native pictured herself in a courtroom, prosecuting an alleged criminal or representing someone who was wrongly accused. Now as an Edinboro University student, Maziarz is beginning to realize her dream as a student attorney.

The vice president of Edinboro’s Mock Trial team, Maziarz joined eight of her classmates and advisor Dr. Joseph Conti for the sixth season of competition in the American Mock Trial Regional Intercollegiate Tournament.

“To survive this competition you have to be comfortable in uncomfortable positions,” said Maziarz, who was recognized by judges for her outstanding contributions as attorney and witness during the February contest on the campus of Penn State University. “It can be intimidating, and judges can really hammer you on objections and rebuttals. But if you can handle that with a stronger response and a tough attitude, you'll give them a run for their money.” 

Thirteen teams competed with Edinboro in the annual competition that pins students against each other in a real-world courtroom scenario. This year’s case assignment involved a civil negligence action, based upon the death of a television studio employee. 

The employee was tragically killed by a trained animal during a studio dress rehearsal. Students assumed the roles of attorneys and witnesses to bring the case to trial.  Edinboro students participated in four trials – two as plaintiff and two as the defense team. 

“All of the Edinboro team members displayed exceptional talent and spirit throughout the competition,” said Conti, an assistant professor in Edinboro’s Criminal Justice, Anthropology, and Forensic Studies Department. “Each student dedicated countless hours on weeknights and weekends preparing for the tournament. To say the least, I am very proud of each and every team member.” 

Although there is no verdict for the outcome of the trial, five Edinboro University students were recognized by judges for outstanding performances as attorneys, while six were recognized for their performances as witnesses. 

Attorneys: Julia Mutranowski, Emily Maziarz, Tarae Price, Madison Lawrie and Josh Hudacky 

Witnesses: Julia Mutranowski, Emily Maziarz, Josh Hudacky, Taylor Szuchon, Mary Lindeman and Josh Carpeno 

Julia Mutranowski, a junior Psychology major from Franklin, Wis., received the overall tournament Outstanding Witness Award, given to just 10 students in the competition. 

“When you enter the courtroom and have to give compelling testimony, field objections and deal with surprise witnesses, that’s a heavy cognitive load,” said Mutranowski, who serves as the Edinboro Mock Trial president. “My emphasis for myself and my team members is first and foremost on confidence. I could not have had a better team for my first year as president. They’ve made me so proud.” 

Edinboro students competed in the regional tournament against nationally recognized Mock Trial teams from Cornell University, Penn State University, Bucknell University, Columbia University, Juniata College, University of Scranton, Susquehanna University, Allegheny College, Ithaca College, Gettysburg College, Indiana University, Elmira College and New York University. 

As the advisor of the Mock Trial team, Conti relied on his 12-year experience as Erie County District Attorney and his 30 years of legal experience to provide direction for the Edinboro crew. 

“This is a tremendous growth experience because it forces students to step out of their comfort zone and learn the skills necessary for a rigorous presentation,” Conti said. “My proudest moment is when students come to me and say, ‘I’ve done things I never thought I could do.’” 

Mutranowski credits much of her success to the leadership of Conti, who designed a course called Courtroom Advocacy to prepare students for actions in the courtroom. 

“He has put in a lot of time after hours to help us be the best we can be at what we do,” said Mutranowski, who worked closely with Conti to determine logistics with travel, finances, and competition scheduling. “His encouragement is so motivating, and both newbies and veterans on our team all benefit from his help. We wouldn’t be where we are without Dr. Conti.”

As Maziarz took the stand as witness, she recalled one piece of advice from Conti that really stuck with her and helped her perform to her maximum ability.

“If you can go through this and do what others can’t, it's going to help you for the rest of your lives,” Conti said to encourage the team. “If you can do this, you can do anything.” 

For more information about the Mock Trial team and Edinboro University’s Criminal Justice, Anthropology, and Forensic Studies Department, visit www.edinboro.edu/cjafs.