2015 Top Gun

2015 Top Gun

Baylor Law School’s 2015 Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition

Baylor Law School Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition 2015

Now in its sixth year, Baylor Law School's Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition is an innovative, invitation-only mock trial tournament in which the single best advocates from the nation's top 16 trial advocacy schools go head-to-head.

Introduction Video
Final Round Video
Photo Gallery
Orientation Dinner
Preliminary Rounds
Final Round
Competitors and Award Winners

Rahul Hari of New York University's School of Law was crowned the winner of the 2015 Baylor Law School Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition. Hari successfully convinced a jury comprised of experienced trial attorneys to return a verdict in his favor at the end of the competition's intense final round - narrowly defeating Ben Wallace of Yale Law School. Hari received the $10,000 prize and rightfully earned the title "Top Gun."

"This is by far the best trial competition I've ever been to," said Hari. "I've been involved in mock trial for more than ten years and I first heard about Top Gun in college when a friend of mine competed. Since then, I've wanted to compete here."

"When we created Top Gun in 2010, we saw a need for a new type of competition that provides a forum to challenge the very best mock trial competitors," said Gerald Powell, the Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence at Baylor Law School. "This competition gives young advocates the chance to go up against the very best of their peers, and gives all of us an opportunity to see the most experienced and talented law students in the country," continued Powell. "I hope all of our competitors leave with a sense of pride in what they have accomplished."

Unlike other mock trial competitions, participants do not receive the case file until they arrive in Waco - only 24 hours before the first round of trials begin. Preparation includes reviewing depositions, records, and photographs, and taking a trip to the actual place where events in the case supposedly occurred, and of course developing a theory of the case. Shortly before each round, competitors are assigned a witness or witnesses who may be used at their discretion during the round. Baylor Law, as the organizing institution, does not field a team.

"Top Gun is unique in so many ways - competitors only have 24 hours to prepare the case; there is only one lawyer for each side; the case file changes in some respect every day of the competition; and then there is the prize money - $10,000 thanks to our great friends at Naman Howell Smith & Lee," said Powell.

Baylor Law School's Top Gun National Mock Trial Competition is sponsored by the law firm Naman Howell Smith & Lee, PLLC, which has offices in Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Waco.

"This is the overall best run competition I've probably ever attended," said finalist Ben Wallace from Yale. "It's an unbelievable challenge to put together and present a case in such a short period of time and the only way you are even able to do it, is when you have an incredibly well written case and an incredibly well run competition. This is my second time here and it's always a pleasure," Wallace added.

A woman scorned, a P.I. turned murderer, and a dead husband. This year's case had all the twists, turns, and drama of an episode of "Law and Order." Fictional character Ellen Moody was charged in federal court with Commission of Murder for Hire after her cheating husband is found dead in his home office. Containing over 150 documents, including court papers, witness statements, evidentiary exhibits, photos, and interrogation and surveillance video, this year's fictional case continued to exemplify the attention to detail and realism for which the Top Gun competition has become nationally known. Sgt. Keith Vaughn of the Waco Police Department Crime Scene Forensics Unit, Baylor Forensic Anthropology Lecturer and Retired Texas Ranger Jim Huggins, as well as attorneys Derek and Lara Hollingsworth from Rusty Hardin & Associates, LLP provided expert consultation and analysis of the problem. Vaughn and Huggins also took the stand, testifying during the final round, adding a sense of realism rarely found in mock trial competitions.

Serving as the presiding judge during the final round was the Honorable Amos Mazzant, Judge of the United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas. Serving on the jury were:

  • Malcolm Bales, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas
  • Roy Barrett, Chairman of the Board, Naman Howell Smith & Lee, PLLC
  • Brit Featherston, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Texas
  • Derek Hollingsworth, Partner, Rusty Hardin & Associates, LLP
  • Lara Hollingsworth, Of Counsel, Rusty Hardin & Associates, LLP
  • Lyn Robbins, Senior General Attorney, BNSF Railway
  • Katie Sweeten, Assistant District Attorney, Travis County
  • Beth Toben, Assistant District Attorney, Limestone County

Like Baylor Law School, the 16 participating law schools are well known for their trial advocacy programs. This year's Top Gun competitors were:

  • Annie Berry - American University, Washington College of Law
  • Jonathan Coppom - University of Denver, Sturm College of Law
  • Selena Farnesi - University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
  • Chad Florin - Stetson University College of Law
  • Fady Hanalla - Washington University School of Law
  • Rahul Hari - New York University School of Law
  • Victoria Miranda - Temple University, Beasley School of Law
  • Grace Pusavat - Brigham Young University, J. Reuben Clark Law School
  • Kaitlin Rothecker - Campbell University School of Law
  • Elliott Smith - Faulkner University, Jones School of Law
  • Aaron Spurlock - Hofstra University, Maurice A. Deane School of Law
  • Rush Thrift - Samford University, Cumberland School of Law
  • Christienne Valone - Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • Ben Wallace - Yale Law School
  • Nicolette Ward - Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Jason Wu - University of California, Berkeley School of Law

In addition to winner Rahul Hari from NYU School of Law and finalist Ben Wallace from Yale Law School, the semi-finalists were Kaitlin Rothecker from Campbell University School of Law and Selena Farnesi from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. Farnesi also won the Professionalism Award and Jonathan Coppom and Grant Grosgebauer (technology assistant) of the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law won the Best Use of Technology Award.

Written by: Nick Teixeira
Email: Nick_Teixeira@baylor.edu

Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,200 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program as #3 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked No. 51 in the magazine's 2018 edition of “America's Best Graduate Schools.” The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law in its top 10 law schools for practical training, and second best value in private legal education in the nation. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation.

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 D1 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big XII Conference. Learn more at baylor.edu