With the Huntington High School mock trial team compiling a perfect 4-0 mark in regular season matches, the Blue Devils are turning their attention to the Suffolk Sweet 16 round and a new set of stiff challenges.
After defeating Commack, Northport, Newfield and receiving a forfeit against Smithtown East, Huntington’s courtroom wizards are undefeated. The Sweet 16 single elimination “March Madness” style format commences March 11 at the Suffolk County District Court in Central Islip. The Blue Devils expect to be among the top seeded teams.
Out of the 27 Suffolk County mock trial teams, Huntington is the only team with a 4-0 record. Three other squads are 3-0 record going into the final week of the regular season.
“We feel very strongly that we can compete for another county championship this year as we have a very talented group of highly intelligent students who have the necessary diligent work ethic and personable skills to impress the actual Suffolk County judges who will be scoring these competitions going forward,” said John LoTurco, one of the Blue Devils’ volunteer legal advisors along with Xavier Palacios.
Against defending county champion Northport, Huntington was just about flawless, earning a near perfect score of 64 out of a maximum of 65 points.
“Northport has become our crosstown rivals as we won the county championship two years ago and had faced them twice last year in which we beat them in the preliminary rounds and they defeated us in the playoff round before they went on to win the counties,” Mr. LoTurco said. “It’s possible that we’ll face them again in the playoffs this year. Nonetheless, we are 4-1 against them in our history of our program.”
The Blue Devils were on top of their game when Northport came for the clash between the courtroom titans. “We were thrilled to defeat the reigning county champions and look forward to hopefully taking the Suffolk County crown ourselves this year and go on to the to the state championship in Albany,” Huntington sophomore Jillian LoTurco said.
In the match against Northport in Huntington’s School Heritage Museum, the Blue Devils represented the prosecution on behalf of the US government against defendant Phoenix Jones on the charge of criminal conspiracy to transport stolen property over the dark web by the use of cryptocurrency.
Sophomore attorney, Erin Ye ignited the competition with her “superlative” opening statement “that sparked our team’s confidence that we could compete with the veteran Northport squad,” Mr. LoTurco said. “Our three witnesses were particularly impressive and received perfect scores from the judge. Sophomore Emily Geller adeptly portrayed the lead federal investigator as she handled herself with poise and confidence, especially during the critical phase of cross examination.”
Senior Riley Tucker brilliantly characterized the expert witness with his comprehensive knowledge of cryptocurrency and its relation to the dark web. Ms. LoTurco perfectly mimicked the Good Samaritan pawn shop clerk with the ideal blend of feigned naïveté and self-assurance.
Senior Attorney Lena Annunziata was outstanding throughout her presentation, particularly during the evidentiary argument stages where she skillfully advocated her positions. Senior John Panos once again delivered a magnificent closing argument, which sealed the victory.
“I’m so proud of how well the team has performed so far this year, especially under the circumstances of how difficult this year's case truly is,” Ms. Ye said. “I look forward to the playoff matches and am confident and we are prepared to make it far this year.”
Against Newfield, Huntington switched sides and represented the defendant, Phoenix Jones. Two of the Blue Devil witnesses made their first live appearance this season and both shined.
Sophomores Cassidy Casabona and Ashley Genao were stellar in their debuts on the mock trial stage. Ms. Casabona professionally portrayed the defendant’s economics professor, delicately balancing the role of expert witness and attesting to the defendant's good moral character. Ms. Genao painted the ideal subpoenaed witness caught in a quandary of being compelled to cooperate with the investigation verses wanting to provide information helpful to the defense. Finally, Christopher Maichin charismatically dramatized the role of the defendant by demonstrating his innocence, in that the criminal charges were contrary to his good moral character.
“We did really well against Newfield,” Mr. Maichin said. “All of our witnesses and attorneys did great, sealing the deal on an undefeated season. But we are not done yet. We expect to go far into playoffs and if we prepare and practice the way we did during the regular season, I think we will do great in playoffs.”
Senior Lia Shechter turned in her best competition to date with a performance that was simply exceptional. “Her opening statement was compelling and performed without any notes,” Mr. Palacios said. “Senior Joseph Mead was also outstanding, including his gripping cross examination and his evidentiary arguments throughout the proceedings.”
Mr. Panos also sparkled, delivering a compelling and passionate closing argument that concluded a fairly lopsided victory according to the judge’s scoring.
The Blue Devils and their volunteer legal advisors are putting in enormous hours to maximize their performance as the playoff approach. Huntington High School teachers Suzi Biagi and Gregory Dieterich serve as the team’s faculty advisors and the pair is working behind the scenes to smooth out any bumps in the road, including addressing an endless number of small details.
“Our team this year is continuing to surpass all expectations,” Ms. Geller said. “By beating Northport, one of our top competitors and winner of last year’s county championship, I truly believe that we are capable of making it through counties and beyond. Each member’s extreme dedication and overall effort toward making our team as a whole the best it can be has shown throughout our preliminary competitions this year and I am so proud of everyone. But we are certainly not done yet.”