by Brittany Hardy
Like many advocacy competitions, preparation for National Trial Competition regional tournament, which takes place this weekend, has involved a significant amount of time, commitment and hard-work. Two Baylor Law School teams have been preparing for about two months.
"We generally practice 4-6 days a week for about two to four hours at a time," said team member Ashley Yearick, "It is a major time commitment, but you learn so much with every competition that it's more than worth the time and the effort."
The teams leave Wednesday for Houston, where the competition is being held. Taking part are Wes LeRouax, Ashley Yearick, Beth Ballew, Ashley Stebbins, Drew Pate (evidence coach), Patrick Sheridan (student coach) and local Waco lawyer Robert Little, who serves as coach.
This year's problem is a gruesome criminal case in which the defendant is charged with two counts of murder and one count of robbery, for shooting and slitting the throats of two young women and stealing $6,000.
"The defense is that of mistaken identity. Is it the missing, jealous, abusive ex-boyfriend or our guy - Robert Duffie, who was having some financial troubles and lied to the police on several occasions," Yearick said.
Since a small percentage of lawyers actually practice criminal work in the professional world, the team is enjoying the drama and mystery involved in this problem.
The competition coordinators provide the witnesses. This means that in addition to the team preparing themselves for trial, they must also be ready to prep their witnesses about 15 minutes prior to the start of trial.
"I think this is a great way to run competitions since it forces the lawyers to win on their own merits, not that of a well trained witness," Yearick said.
In this competition, the team is permitted to bring and argue case law relating to the applicable rules of civil procedure and rules of evidence.
"This adds a whole new level of argument and makes the evidentiary issues that much more compelling and fun to argue," Yearick said.
Their goal is to make it to Nationals.
"Since this is the last competition I will have the opportunity to compete in, we are really hoping to do well and ultimately send two teams to Nationals," Yearick said. "Given the experience, skill and knowledge of the teams, I think we are capable of doing just that."