Washington, DC (November 9, 1995) -- Beating back fierce competition from 11 other law schools, a team of four students representing Stetson University College of Law took top honors in the 1995 Cathy E. Bennett National Criminal Trial Competition, sponsored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and held at NACDL's Fall Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 25 -28.
Teams from Hofstra University School of Law (in Hempstead, New York), University of New Mexico School of Law (in Albuquerque), and Southwestern University School of Law (in Los Angeles, California) finished second, third and fourth, respectively.
The Cathy E. Bennett Best Overall Advocate Award was awarded to third-year Hofstra student Mary Beth T. Ott, of Valley Stream, New York. Other individual awards included: Best Advocate, Round 1 -- Tom Prislipsky (University of Akron, third-year, evening), of Boardman, Ohio; Best Advocate, Round 2 -- Chris Schaller (Gonzaga University, third-year), of Olympia, Washington; and Best Advocate, Round 3 -- Stephanie Duncan-Brent (Georgia State University, third-year), of Pickens, South Carolina.
The Bennett Competition provides law students from around the country an opportunity to sharpen and test their practical skills in mock criminal trials judged by the nation's best criminal defense lawyers. The competition, hosted each year by NACDL and organized by University of Georgia Law Professor Wendy Jenkins, is dedicated to the memory of "Cat" Bennett, a pioneering jury consultant and beloved NACDL member. A record 56 schools applied for the 12 available slots this year.
This year's mock case was a prosecution for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Each round of the competition consisted of a three-hour trial in which team members presented opening and closing arguments, examined and cross-examined witnesses, introduced physical evidence, and argued objections and pretrial motions.
*Photos of winners and teams are available by mail or Fed-Ex on request.
Stetson's winning team of future litigators included second-year student Tangela Hopkins, of Thomasville, Georgia; and third-year students Jason Recksiedler, of Winnipeg, Canada; Sarah Crossman, of Melbourne and Orlando, Florida; and Maria Tejedor, of Tampa, Florida. The team was coached by Kathleen Hessinger, an attorney with Harris, Barrett, Mann & Dew, of St. Petersburg, Florida. Students on the first-place team will share a $2,000 prize donated by Friends of NACDL.
The second-place Hofstra University School of Law team was made up of third-year students Kathleen M. Dillon, of Muttontown, New York; Alicia M. Gerez, of Brooklyn, New York; Brian B. Manoff, of New City, New York; and Ms. Ott. They were coached by Associate Professor Stefan Krieger and Professor Lawrence Kessler. The team took home a $1,000 prize, courtesy of Friends of NACDL.
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On the team from University of New Mexico School of Law, which placed third, were third-year students Varrell Fuller, of Miami Florida; Vincent Martinez, of Santa Fe, New Mexico; K.C. Maxwell, of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Glenn Smith Valdez, of Albuquerque. Professor Barbara Bergman and attorney Charles Daniels (of Albuquerque's Freedman, Boyd, Daniels, Peifer, Hollander, Guttmann & Goldberg) coached the New Mexico team.
Fourth-place Southwestern University School of Law was represented by third-year students Jon Birdt, of Los Angeles, California; DeAnn Flores, of West Los Angeles, Daniel McCann, of Torrance, California; and Lani R. Miller, of Mission Viejo, California. Their coach was Adjunct Law Professor Joey Esposito, who is also a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles.
Also competing in the criminal trial competition were law student teams from DePaul University, Georgia State University, Gonzaga University, Southern Methodist University, Suffolk University, University of Miami, University of Tennessee, and University of Akron.
"Cat" Bennett worked with lawyers in over 750 trials and especially enjoyed training young lawyers in the art of working with juries. Her devotion to the jury process and dedication to individual rights earned her the highest esteem of her NACDL colleagues, who presented her with a lifetime achievement award in 1991, shortly before she lost her six-year battle with cancer at the age of 41.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.