Sylvester Yavana ’14 won “Best Oral Advocate” at the recent Northeast Region Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, which was held during the Northeast Black Law Students Association (NEBLSA) 2012 Convention in West Harrison, New York. This award is given to the competitor with the highest score. Yavana’s score was not only the highest of all the competitors who came from Brooklyn Law School, Harvard, NYU, Columbia, St. John’s, and many others, it was also a near perfect score. Scores are based on the advocate’s performance during the trial-opening statement or closing argument, motions in limine, direct examinations, cross examinations, objections grounds and arguments, and professionalism.
The case about which the teams argued pertained to a young man who had a troubled childhood and was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, possession of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. The case involved establishing the element of intent through possibly incriminating text messages between the defendant and conspirators along with inconsistent confessions by the defendant and a co-conspirator, which may have been coerced. Additionally, there were 4th and 5th Amendment issues that required intense advocacy and familiarity with pertinent cases. Finally, the competition required understanding and use of the Federal Rules of evidence as well as trial procedure.
Yavana is a member of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), which sent two teams to the trial competition. His team members were Danielle Evans ’13, president of BLSA, Aniekan Obot ’13, Juran Irving ’13, and Sylvester Yavana ’14. The other team was comprised of Michelle Poakwa ’12, Joseph Spears ’13, Leanne Welds ’14, and Ojeiku Aisiku ’14. They were coached by Gleennia Napper ’12, Kalish Bell ’12, and Richard Schroeder ’13. Ricardo Salmon ’10 and Lisa Atkins ’09, returned to the Law School to assist the team members with their preparations.
“This competition was an amazing experience,” said Yavana. “I had incredible support from my teammates, our coaches, and alumni. This award is a manifestation of their hard work and dedication. It was an honor to represent BLS.”
“What was great this year was the help we received from alumni who helped us at our practices,” said Evans. “We only had two weeks to prepare, which was intense, and is another reason why Yavana’s win was so amazing.”
BLS is a strong supporter of this competition Evans noted. “It is an essential part of legal education to learn practical skills needed in a courtroom, such as communicating effectively on a client’s behalf or applying existing case law and rules to a particular situation.”