Like any good group of lawyers, the Huntington High School mock trial team loves to win in the courtroom. But, sometimes that’s just not in the cards.
Huntington compiled a 3-1 mark during the four regular season matches to advance to the Suffolk Sweet 16 round where it dropped a close decision to Miller Place at the Cohalan Court Complex in Central Islip. Local attorneys Xavier Palacios and Jack Piana are the team’s legal advisors. Business teacher Suzie Biagi is the faculty advisor.
In last week’s playoff round match-up, Huntington was assigned to represent the defense in this year’s statewide case: Robin Berkman v. County of Dover. Huntington had a difficult uphill battle from the opening courtroom skirmishes.
The case centers on a lawsuit brought by Ms. Berkman against Dover and Detective Leslie Smith for malicious prosecution. Against Miller Place in the Sweet 16 round match, Huntington had to show there was probable cause for Detective Smith to pursue and arrest Ms. Berkman.
Once all the arguments had to been made and summarized the judge issued his verdict, with Huntington falling just short by a small handful of points. Still, the team can take comfort in knowing that it once again reached the elite circle of Suffolk mock trial squads, with many new faces taking important positions in the lineup.
Huntington attorney Alyssa Befumo opened the playoff round trial with brief preliminary courtroom business, displaying her usual professionalism and grace. Attorney Abby Bellistri formally kicked off Huntington’s presentation by making it clear that Detective Smith made a “just and reasonable arrest.”
Huntington attorney Max Robins went on to thoroughly cross-examine the plaintiff in the case, Ms. Berkman. Mr. Robins brought to the forefront her “obsession with the investigation” and her “perceived admission to the crime.”
Riley Tucker, who played the role of Detective Smith for Huntington, held his own under stinging cross examination by Miller Place. Mr. Tucker emphasized that his reasons for arresting Ms. Berkman were “appropriate and just.”
Ms. Befumo developed and pulled off a thoroughly convincing direct examination of witness John Panos, who played the part of Dr. Lee Trimble. “Both were well-spoken and expert in their craft as ‘Dr. Trimble’ shared his opinions clearly and furthered the defense’s case,” Ms.Biagi said.
The defense’s last witness was Rory Bocelli, who played the part of Sam Perkins. He charmed the court with his quick and confident responses, even making the judge smile at one point during his testimony.
Mr. Robins wrapped up the trial with a convincing closing statement, which he delivered with self-confidence and poise. It was so good the judge was torn between the two quite convincing arguments presented by the Huntington and Miller Place teams.
“It’s unfortunate that our team lost this round,” Ms. Biagi said. But as the teacher and legal advisors sat together and watched the final trial play out, they all felt good about how far Huntington legal eagles had come.
Messrs. Palacios and Piana volunteered countless hours to the team, working with students to sharpen their courtroom presence. “This young team of legal enthusiasts had an impressive season and have proven to us and their peers that they all have a promising future as public speakers and possibly as tomorrow’s attorneys,” Mrs. Biagi said. “We are so proud of all of them and can’t wait for next year’s mock trial season.”