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Brooklyn judge shocked at how good interns are at mock trial

August 14, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Three of this year’s participants in the Brooklyn Courts’ SYEP mock trial (pictured from left): Gabriella Birzh, Dildora Uktamova and Robin Charles. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

Every year student interns from the Brooklyn courts’ Summer Youth Employment Program participate in a mock trial, but this year’s group was so good that it shocked Supreme Court Justice Reginald Boddie.

“They were on top of it,” Justice Boddie said. “They made motions that normal attorneys would make and always at the appropriate time. That caught me totally off guard. I was shocked. When they moved for a directed verdict that really surprised me.”

The summer internships last approximately six weeks and interns who participate in the mock trial start preparing for the mock trial almost immediately. Three court employees, Inga O’Neale, Xavier Carr and Tyedanita McLean help prep the students for a trial.

“The students are always so well prepared that I treated it like I would any other case when it came time to prepare,” Boddie said. “The students were fabulous. They were well prepared, were very detailed about the witness statements and what the witnesses testified to. They were very detailed in their presentations. They presented rules of evidence and they followed it. There was one rule that I actually didn’t remember and they reminded me that a witness’ testimony wasn’t included.”

Justice Boddie gave a lot of credit to the students, but also the three mock trial coaches.

“They made my job easy because they really taught the kids the rules and got the witnesses to stick to the script,” Boddie said. “I think they really prepared them all well.”

Three of the students who spoke with the Brooklyn Eagle after the mock trial, Gabriella Birzh, a sophomore in college; Dildora Uktamova, a high school senior; and Robin Charles, who recently graduate college; all are veterans of the SYEP and had done the mock trial before. Still, they said, they were nervous going before the judge.

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“It’s a lot of weeks of intense practice,” Birzh said. “We had weeks where we practiced multiple times going over objections and case theory. It’s about working together as a team to figure out the best way possible to present the case as a team.”

Like Boddie, Charles and her peers also had a lot of high praise for the coaches and said that they helped motivate them to pursue careers in the law.

“I think it’s a testament to who we have as mentors and supervisors,” Charles said. “They made sure that we understand trial advocacy and what to do as an attorney.”

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