Mock Trial Wins City Championship

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Congratulations to the St. Joseph’s Prep Mock Trial Team for winning the City Championship on Sunday, defeating Central High School 6-3 on the judges’ ballots. This championship, the fifth in the illustrious 22-year tenure of coach Tom Johnson, qualifies the Prep for the State Tournament that begins on March 24. This means that the Prep is among the 14 best teams in the state out of the 250 that compete in mock trial. The Prep also won the City Championship in 2002, 2005, 2008, and 2011.

This year’s case is a murder trial set in the horse racing industry. There were six witnesses, three for the prosecution and three for the defense, and much of the testimony involved fingerprints, DNA analysis, and hair analysis. In mock trial, both sides are required to prepare the prosecution and defense; in the semifinals win over Roman Catholic B, the Prep served as the defense but competed in the City Championship as a prosecution. “That is very in the Jesuit tradition,” says Johnson. “You have to know the opposition’s case as well as yours.”

All of the matches this season have been conducted on Zoom, which means that the six competitors plus the timekeeper are competing from locations throughout the Delaware Valley. In the City Championship, held during the Prep’s spring break, that geographic region expanded as students competed from California, Colorado, and North Carolina. Eamon Coffey, a witness for the prosecution, competed from a hotel room in California where he is playing for the Rugby Team. 

The presiding judge for the City Championship was Hon. Daniel Anders of the Court of Common Pleas. Among the nine scoring judges were Wesley Payne, the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, and Judge Bradley Moss. The championship was incredibly close, Johnson says. “On four of the ballots, there was a one point difference.”

Congratulations to the City Champions. Here is the list of members with comments from Coach Johnson:
  • Eamon Coffey ’22: Eamon played the role of the police investigator and had to both present a powerful forceful position as an investigator while admitting to numerous mistakes made during the collection of evidence. He did a brilliant job under very heavy cross examination. 
  • Zack Creel ’22: Zack was a remarkable improviser on cross examination. He brilliantly parried a comment made by one of the Central witnesses, leading to visible laughter on the part of the judges. He was named Best Advocate by Central HS.
  • Anthony Hays ’22: Anthony studied fingerprints, DNA analysis, and plays the expert on both the prosecution and defense. He definitely comes across as the smartest guy in the courtroom. He was battling the opponents and was brilliant. Anthony is incredibly poised and fluid and a forensics guru. He was named by Central HS as the Best Witness.
  • Dan Law ’23: Dan played the role of Patrick Day, who admits to committing a horrible crime, on the verge of tears, with a Xanadu accent. Xanadu is a mythical country in Eastern Europe. He was named by the scoring panel as Best Witness in the whole competition.
  • Nolan Reddy ’22: Nolan was co-captain of this year’s teams and delivered the closing argument for the defense. He had the challenging job of both directing and cross-examining both forensics experts. Nolan was absolutely the most diligent member of the team and a tech expert. He was named Best Advocate by the Judging Panel.
  • Bobby Woltjen ’22: Bob was also co-captain and was a team member for four years. He made brilliant legal arguments in response to persistent objections by the Central lawyers. He gave incredible legal details and delivered an opening statement that received perfect scores from several of the judges.
When the Prep goes on defense:
  • Frank Amuso ’22: Frank, the son of JV coach Peter Amuso, steps in as an attorney when the Prep is defending the accused murderer. He has an amazing calm, masterful style that is extremely effective on cross-examination, one which the judges love.
  • Bryce Goodman ’22: Bryce is the only rookie on this team and plays the Argentinian groom Corey Nakatani who provides an alibi for the defendant. He has made remarkable progress this year, his first in mock trial. 
  • Jack Jaeger ’23: Jack plays the crafty, immoral newspaperman Gerry Bailey and has charmed defense judges with his enthusiastic characterization of a person 50 years older than himself. 
Johnson had many people to thank but especially mentioned the work of Tony Braithwaite ’89, Director of the Cape and Sword Drama Society Prep Engagement Specialist, and Leslie Ryan, English Teacher and Club Moderator. “When we got into the more serious levels of competition, I enlisted Tony Braithwaite to meet with the witnesses and speech givers to give them the necessary tools to present well,” Johnson says. “I also enlisted Leslie Ryan to help with public speaking.”
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