Coached by Broward County criminal defense attorney Eric Schwartzreich and Assistant United States Attorney Michael Gilfarb, the American Heritage School Mock Trial Team placed third at the 2014 Florida High School State Mock Trial Competition hosted by the Florida Law Related Education Association (F.L.R.E.A) in Orlando, according to American Heritage School program director, Nikki Ippolitto Laurie on Monday.
Advancing over American Heritage School winning top honors was Duncan U. Fletcher High School of Jacksonville, while Chiles High School of Tallahassee finished second. Rounding out the top five were American Heritage at third place, TERRA Environmental Research Institute of Miami at fourth place and Charlotte High School of Punta Gorda at fifth place.
Professionalism Awards were presented to Melbourne High School, Charlotte High School, St Stephens Episcopal School, FAU High School, Lakeland Christian School, and Pinellas Park High School.
“I'm proud of our team,” head coach Eric Schwartzreich told Examiner. “They excelled and exceeded all expectations from winning the state competition in previous competitions to placing in the top 20 teams at the national competition, to placing in the top 5th in the Empire Invitational, an international mock trial competition held every year in New York City.”
Tried in the Orange County Courthouse - the same courthouse in which infamous alleged child-killer Casey Anthony was tried - this year's mock trial problem was a drug trafficking case.
Participating mock trial lawyers argued the simulated criminal case of the State of Florida vs. Davis where a high school student was charged with trafficking in oxycodone. Alleging a violation of the school's zero tolerance drug policy, an anonymous tip resulted in a search of Davis' car where 247 oxycodone pills were found by police.
Arguing for both the prosecution and the defense, the American Heritage School Patriots conducted opening and closing statements and performed direct as well as cross examinations.
Participating mock trial attorneys were Matthew Robinson, Rayne Sullivan and Jacob Snider, with Jenny Friedman acting as an alternate. Witnesses included Sam Cho, Ryan Romero, Maria Rillo, Mia Castillo and Carine Ghannoum.
Accompanying the American Heritage School Patriots to Orlando were Empire Mock Trial Tournament participant Emily Briano, school founder William Laurie, and Broward County Property Appraiser general counsel Mila Schwartzreich.
In addition, Matthew Robinson won top lawyer at the state competition and was awarded a $2,500 scholarship by the FLREA. Sam Cho won a best witness award for his portrayal of an expert witness.
“I've never seen a more determined, tireless, consistent, cohesive group of students,” co-Coach Michael Gilfarb told Examiner. “These students have competed in numerous competitions at the county, state, national, and international level, winning numerous awards and accolades during their years of competition.
Beating out all of the competition to be the number one private school in Florida, the American Heritage School Patriots are a proud group.
"As the number one private high school at the Florida mock championship, I'm proud to be part of the American Heritage program,” concluded Schwartzreich, who has coached the team the past eight years. “These students work extremely hard and take classes in evidence, constitutional law and trial advocacy. They are truly mock stars and will be prepared for what law school brings them in the future.”