Cross-dressing mayor' gets cross-examined by UB mock trial team

UB hosts national mock trail competition


In a mock court case, the “mythical mayor” of Buffalo-Niagara enjoyed slipping into “something more comfortable” as part of his cross-dressing fetish.

But when his mayoral opponent discovered this, she hired her drug addict half-brother to acquire photographic evidence to force the mayor out of the election.

This fabricated situation was heightened when the opponent did not pay her half-brother for the job, so he conspired with the mayor to get the photos back – only if the mayor agreed to pay twice as much as the original job.

Somehow the two half-siblings ended up unconscious, and the mayor was charged with conspiracy and attempted murder.

Law students from 36 law schools across the country took on this case of mayoral conspiracy and attempted murder in the 11th annual Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition. UB hosted the event on Nov. 8-11. After the preliminary rounds Saturday and Sunday, 20 teams were left for the semifinals and finals.

Each school’s team has four students. Last year, Northwestern University won the competition.

This year, UB’s law school had two teams, but neither advanced to the semifinals. One team consisted of Amanda Cannavo, Ryan Poplawski, Gina Gramaglia and Kevin Cannizzaro. The second team included Sean Carberry, Sidney Mosher, Christopher Berloth and Alison Camp.

The semifinal and final teams were from Creighton University, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, Fordham University, St. John’s University, Nova Southeastern University, DePaul University and Faulkner University.

The competition pits two members against two of the same team. Each pair will switch between being on the prosecution and defense.

Judge Thomas Franczyk, a judge for the Erie County Court, creates the cases for the Buffalo-Niagara Mock Trial Competition each year and helps coach the UB teams.

“I want them to have an in-depth fact pattern with a lot of layers in it and a lot of legal issues,” he said.

The convoluted storyline requires the members of mock trial to sort through the information, pulling out the relevant facts and setting aside ones that are just filler. At the same time, teams have to identify “the legal issues and the evidentiary issues so they can argue the case and present it in court,” Franczyk said.

Students prepare for the case during the semester before the competition. Based on their performance and a trial technique course offered through the law school, a team of four students is formed. Cannavo, a third-year law student, said the group prepared for more than eight weeks, including meeting formally four times per week and many additional hours expanding their case and developing their skills.

Carberry, a third-year law student, said he and his team have been preparing for the competition since Labor Day.

Carberry participated on mock trial for the past three semesters and has been to the Buffalo-Niagara Competition twice.

“The defense team went with the theme that ‘the wrong man is on trial,’” Carberry said.

His team argued Mayor Drysdale – the “mythical mayor” – should not be on trial, and the opponent's brother, Mr. Jeb Beaudine, took it upon himself to kill his own sister “in a fit of rage and personal vendetta,” Carberry said.

Buffalo judges and attorneys evaluate the teams based on their arguments, motions, objections, opening statements, direct examinations of witnesses, cross-examinations of witnesses and closing arguments, Franczyk said.

Poplawski, a third-year law student, has been in “public speaking engagements” before, but has never competed in a mock trial competition until this past weekend.

“Being able to think on your feet and make split second decisions is something that only comes with practice and knowing about your case,” Poplawski said. “A good advocate must know when to push and when to hold back on a witness. There are many strategic decisions made over the course of a trial between you and your partner that makes the whole process so interesting.”

Carberry said mock trial competitions give students an opportunity to experience a court case from beginning to end.

“It helps you develop an understanding of how to put a case together, to recognize what is most important in a case and what the jury needs to hear to return the verdict in your favor,” Carberry said.

In a typical semester, UB sends mock trial teams to four or five competitions. Teams have previously competed in Michigan, Texas, New York, California and Florida.

The next competition for the UB team is the William W. Daniel National Invitational Mock Trial Competition in Atlanta, Georgia Nov. 21-22.