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By John Brown
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 12, 1997

UA team wins national mock trial competition

The next Matlock may just be a future University of Arizona graduate.

A UA team of three pre-law students were named as the top performers in a national mock trial competition held in the nation's capital last weekend.

But despite the victory, they lost every mock case.

"Even though we won, we never won a case," said pre-law freshman David Liberty, who was the team's direct examiner.

Maria Elena Cruz, a pre-law senior team member, added, "Our presentation was strong and we were well prepared."

More than 30 schools competed in mock-trials, which were part of the pre-law fraternity Phi Alpha Delta's national conference at American University's Washington College of Law Nov. 7-9. About 20 UA students attended the conference.

Liberty, Cruz and pre-law junior Cobea Becker made up the three-person defense team that edged a Temple University prosecution squad in a final-round mock murder trial Sunday afternoon.

Liberty said facilitators rated their performance on an accumulative point scale system. He added that an attorney's questions and statements were scored one to five points each. In addition to team points, Cruz and Liberty took individual honors.

Liberty was named Most Outstanding Defense Attorney for Direct Examinations and Cruz for her top cross examinations.

"My parents were mad I didn't let them come," said Liberty, who said he only met one other freshman at the conference.

"I didn't think we would make it that far," he added.

According to the mock story line, the defense team's client, Devon Kelmar, was on trial for allegedly shooting a schoolmate. The schoolmate had been threatening Kelmar since he started a band with the schoolmate's girlfriend. The attorneys alleged that the schoomate went so far as to threaten Kelmar with a knife before Kelmar shot him.

However, the defense had no witness to these earlier attacks and no way to prove their allegations. Their case hinged on a psychologist's testimony that the repeated attacks had caused a battered-person syndrome and provoked their client's retaliation. The students argued that Kelmar had taken a gun to school the day of the shooting because he feared for his life.

Their client was found guilty of second degree murder in the final round.

Cruz said performing before Washington superior and appellate court judges was a great opportunity.

"Being in front of real judges made all the difference, she said, adding that the conference workshops were very helpful.

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