Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Cherry Hill West Is Judged The Best In Mock Trial Competition

Posted: May 07, 1986

Victor Wu is not a lawyer and, preferring computers to law books, he has no intention of becoming one.

Even so, and although he admitted that he was "definitely nervous," he argued with finesse before a jury at the New Jersey Supreme Court last week.

A senior at Cherry Hill High School West, Wu, 17, prosecuted the homicide case of the United States vs. Snodgrass in the High School Mock Trial Competition in Trenton.

Although Snodgrass was acquitted, Wu was a winner.

He and his teammates from Cherry Hill West captured the state title this year, the school's first in the competition.

It was an unexpected victory.

"We went into this thing not so much to win the state championship, but to beat Cherry Hill East," said Romeo Camba, a senior on the team.

Although Cherry Hill High School East has had a mock trial team for several years, it was defeated by Cherry Hill West in the county preliminaries this year.

In the long-running rivalry between the two schools, Cherry Hill West had won another point.

West's mock trial team, composed of 13 students, is the first Camden County team to win the state competition since it began four years ago. This year, the competition included 200 high schools and more than 2,100 students, said Jay A. Strassberg of the Camden County Bar Association.

The Cherry Hill West team was started after a student, Jonathan Weinstein, heard about the competition over the summer and suggested that the school participate. About 50 students tried out for the team in October.

Since then, the team has been meeting as many as three times a week to practice.

"They were better than a lot of lawyers I've heard," said Jaffa Stein, an assistant county prosecutor who coaches the team. "They were probably some of the brightest kids I've come in contact with."

The students are obviously fond of their coach.

"Hi, Sweetie," one student said to Stein as she arrived at a celebration lunch held by the bar association last week.

"They bring tears to my eyes," Stein said, after receiving a bouquet of flowers from the students.

All of the teams participating in the contest received the same trial to work on. It was a murder case. Snodgrass, the defendant, was accused of killing a companion in a drunken furor.

He was pleading self-defense.

In the final round of the competition last week, the Cherry Hill West team, which had won the Southern Regional Mock Trial Competition, faced Kittatinny Regional High School, winner of the Northern Regional Mock Trial Competition.

Cherry Hill West prosecuted and Kittatinny took the defense.

"Their attorneys were nervous and their witnesses were theatrical," Weinstein said, assessing the competition.

Judge Morton I. Greenberg of the state Superior Court appellate division presided over the trial and declared West the winner. "They were extremely professional," he said. "I have never sat on anything like that before and I was very impressed."

"A lot of it is being at ease in a courtroom and before a lot of people," Weinstein said.

Weinstein attributed West's success, in part, to the emphasis on debates and oral presentations in classes at the high school.

Camba said the team won because all four of the students chosen to act as attorneys through various rounds of the competition were strong. Other teams had one or two weak attorneys, he said.

Camba was one of West's lawyers. However, he said he has no interest in making a career out of it. He'd rather go into biology.

But, "I'd definitely do it again if I weren't graduating," he said of the competition.

The other students on the Cherry Hill West team were: James Rosica, Sergi Kagno, Andy Cosenza, Robert Donley, Stacy Kleiner, Daniel Levine, Scott Murray, Fabian Philippoussis, Susanna Philippoussis and Nadine Schwartz.

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