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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nic Marais ’11 and Julie Duncan ’12 Win Top Honors in Barristers’ Union Mock Trial Finals

Yale Law School students Nic Marais ’11 and Julie Duncan ’12 took top honors in the final round of the Thomas Swan Barristers’ Union Mock Trial Competition held April 27 at Yale Law School.

Marais and Duncan represented defendant Alan Blizard in the case, State v. Blizard, and Andrew Hahn ’13 and Lewis Bollard ’13 represented the prosecution. Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York presided. Mr. Blizard is the owner and operator of an ice skating rink in the city of Armadillo, State of Lone Star. He stood accused of murdering Adam Thomas McKenzie (“ATM”), the man who had sold him an unprofitable Automated Teller Machine for his rink, and then stealing the van of the man changing his rink’s carpet, Joe Kubinsky, to dump Mr. McKenzie’s body.

In the opening statement for the prosecution, Hahn stated that Mr. Blizard “had a problem” with Mr. McKenzie and that the facts would prove that “he had to take care of it” through murder. Duncan, opening for the defense, held up Mr. Kubinsky as an alternative suspect and urged the jury to stay focused on the “three Gs”—the grudge, the gun, and the getaway van.

The witnesses were competent, often elusive, and sometimes even humorous on the stand as the advocates elicited testimony through carefully prepared examinations. Particularly entertaining was Mr. Kubinsky’s attempts to explain his carpeting tools to the amused jury. In closing arguments, Bollard clearly articulated the evidence of Mr. Blizard’s guilt, while Marais presented an emotional appeal to the jurors’ sense of justice.

Nic Marais was awarded the coveted John Fletcher Caskey Prize for best presentation of a case on final trial, and Julie Duncan earned the John Currier Gallagher Prize for showing the most proficiency in the presentation of a case on final trial. Judge Cote, who was presented with a commemorative gavel at the end of the trial, ran an efficient proceeding and tested the competitors on their knowledge of the rules of evidence and the facts of the case. She remarked at the end of the trial that all the advocates displayed impressive advocacy skills and that she wished all of them could have received a prize. 

The Thomas Swan Barristers’ Union sponsors a mock trial competition every spring semester at Yale Law School. Students act as attorneys and simulate a jury trial, performing pre-trial motions, opening statements, direct and cross examinations, and closing arguments. The competition culminates in a championship trial, over which a sitting Federal District Judge presides.