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Episode

9

9. Survive and Advance

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Air date: 

July 26, 2022

Adria is a fan of the philosopher Nick Saban, the decorated coach of the Alabama football team. She and Judge Kern Reese want their team to stay focused, be clear and concise. Tight. She sends her team to an invitational in Houston to see who is ready for the big time in the spring. The results are mixed. Back home in New Orleans, the team rallies and punches their ticket to the Regional Championship.

Learn more about the schools, programs and special guests:

Dillard University Pre-Law Program

American Mock Trial Association

National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA)

National Bar Association

Follow us on Twitter @ClassActionPod and Instagram @ClassActionPod

Visit our show page for transcripts and more details about the series at ClassActionPod.com

Follow host Katie Phang on Twitter @KatiePhang and Instagram @KatiePhang.


 

TRANSCRIPT

Katie Phang [narration]:

Class action is a production of iHeartRadio and Sound Argument.


Dillard University is about to embark on an exhausting run of three competitions in their quest to punch their ticket to the national tournament. It’s the same old arson case – a bar called Chuggies is torched – a firefighter dies, and the owner tries to collect the insurance money.

Coach Adria Kimbrough and students Amaya Ronczyk, DeAndre K. Bell, Lajeanne Shelton, and Caitlin Douglas narrate this story.


This is Episode 9: Survive and Advance


[Dillard University Mock Trial Team inside courtroom prior to opening round of competitions.]


[Music – inspirational piano and strings]

Lajeanne Shelton:

Okay. This is, I did this chant, I think people who were on my team for Houston, remember? Yeah, I pulled y'all outside and I made y'all do this chant.

Dillard Mock Trial Group:

Yeah, we loved it.

Lajeanne Shelton:

About this team. So I just want y'all to repeat after me and keep the beat like I know we can. Okay. Just repeat after me is a very simple repeat after me.

This team. Best team. Strong team. [Leading chant]

Dillard Mock Trial Group:

This team. Best team. Strong team. [Following chant]

Lajeanne Shelton:

I love my team! [Leading chant].

Dillard Mock Trial Group:

I love my team! [Following chant].

Lajeanne Shelton:

[Leading cheer] Who you, who you rolling with?

Dillard Mock Trial Group:

D!

Lajeanne Shelton:

[Leading cheer] And what’s the rest?

Dillard Mock Trial Group:

U! [cheers and applause]

Adria Kimbrough:

So the season is still shaping up for us. We have commitments already at competitions. One will be the University of Alabama. Pace University in New York. The University of Houston, which is a great competition.

Sterling Bond:

Sterling. Yeah.

Producer:

Dinners at your house tonight, right?

Sterling Bond:

Yes. Yes. It's at my, my cousin's house. When I knew it was Houston and I knew was this week. I was like, yes, we're going to, we're going to eat good food. One of these days, we're going to have some good homemade food with my family and we're going to have fun.

[Team Group Singing]

Adria Kimbrough:

So, today is going well. We are having an opportunity to test some things out. Also having an opportunity to give some of our newer members a chance to get more experience.

[Team Group Singing]

[Singing 00:02:30]

Adria Kimbrough:

I hate to say it like this, but it's almost like a Varsity JV model that happens in the spring where you put your very best, your, your best experience, talented people, all on one team, almost like a warrior class. If you will, like an All-Star team because you want to give yourself the best shot to make it to the championships.

Some of our lesser experienced people are going to be on the team by themselves in the spring. So they're not going to have, you know, the Amaya's, the Lajeanne's, the DeAndre's with them to kind of help hold them up.

[Beginning of Round 1 of tournament]

Judge:

All right, Defense, call your first witness.

Dillard Defense Team:

We would like to call Skylar Dejonne.

DeAndre K. Bell:

I'll be playing the role of a witness specifically for this round, I'll be Skylar Dejonne. It's going to be an interesting witness because we're trying out a new theory. We are contending that somebody else did it, that somebody being me. And so I have to play it off like I didn't do it, but I really know what happened, but it's going to be fun. I'm excited.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Good morning, everyone. My name is Skylar Dejonne.

Dillard Defense Team:

And what do you, what do you do for a living?

DeAndre K. Bell:

Well at heart, I am a thespian. I could play many roles. I can be happy. I can be sad. I can be holier than thou. And of course I can be a little evil too, if you, you know.

Dillard Defense Team:

So you don't like Dakota?

DeAndre K. Bell:

Not at all. Absolutely. I mean, she made bad business decisions, including what she did to me, the renovations were terrible. Everything that Dakota did really messed things up.

Prosecution Team:

And like you said, prior to you saw her walking to the firehouse.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Yes.

Prosecution Team:

And that's what made you certain that it was Ms. Sutcliff that you saw.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Well, I know for a fact it was her. I mean, it was her bar, her business. She'll be the only one there at the time with the exception of me, because you know, I know how to move around.

Prosecution Team:

That's exactly right Mr. Dejonne, you knew it was her because she's the only firefighter that you know, that is connected to Chuggies and the firehouse.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Well, I wouldn't say the firefighting part was really what gave me the ammunition. I needed to know that it was her. But like I said, when I followed her to the building, followed her out of the building, that kind of thing. I, it made sense. Yes. I was able to tell that she was a firefighter.

[Team gathers in hallway after Round 1]

Aubri:

My name is Aubri.

DeAndre K. Bell:

How do you feel about the last round?

Aubri:

I feel really confident about the last round.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Your closing was amazing. You know that.

Aubri:

Thank you. Thank you.

DeAndre K. Bell:

No, like it I'm being so serious. The judge's comments did, did it know Justin? Like he said some good stuff, but like, I'm very proud of your closing.

Aubri:

Thank You. Thank you. Thank you. I tried. Well, thanks to you and Amaya you and Amaya. All thanks to y'all.

DeAndre K. Bell:

The amount of improvement you've shown since like the very first time you gave her clothing. Like when I say exponential, like no, the way you told the story, like I saw you make the adjustments that I suggested last night and it was, it was, it was well done.

Aubri:

Thank you.

A’Nya

Okay. I know earlier I said I was really nervous to the point of crying, but like after I went through my first direct, no, no, it was my first cross. I was like so excited. Like I felt so comfortable and I was like, I'm ready to do it again.

Amaya:

The Annihilator.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Yes. We've given her a line name. This is the Annihilator speaking.

[DeAndre inside car with producer Kevin Huffman driving around the city of New Orleans]

DeAndre K. Bell:

Because of Katrina, like some of my best friends in Houston are from New Orleans. And you know, we see a lot of New Orleans elements and a lot of things that people in Houston do because so much of Houston's population are people who are displaced, you know, from New Orleans.

My dad is the founding minister, the pastor at Joy Cathedral in Houston, Texas. You know, people already know who he is, especially in the church. Everyone knows who he is.

[Producer Jason Foster and Sound Engineer Davis Land drive to and walk up to the home of DeAndre Bell Sr. and family in Houston, Texas]

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

All of them are here. Yes. They're here. Good morning gentlemen.

Jason Foster:

Good morning.

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

How's it going? Hello? I'm doing well. How about yourself? DeAndre Bell is my name.

Jason Foster:

Jason Foster.

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

Nice to meet you, sir. Nice to meet you.

Davis Land:

Davis Land.

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

Good morning. Deandre Bell is my name, sir.

Davis Land:

Nice to meet you.

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

Come on in.

Jason Foster:

Thank you for having us.

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

Yes, sir. Let's walk through the kitchen, we have to make shift. Excuse me. Just follow me. Good. Make shifts since we are still in the COVID environment, I still don't feel comfortable, meeting face to face in worship.

Jason Foster:

How long is your service, usually?

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

I start at 10:59 and we're normally done by 11:35. My wife will start playing behind the curtain and then my son and my daughter will give me directions on time and we'll hit record play. And that's it.

[music, keyboard piano, inspirational and calming church sermon]

What time is sweetie? Okay, sweetie. I'm going live.

[DeAndre Bell Sr. begins online church sermon in front of a camera to his members]

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continue to be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord. The humble shall hear that rub and be glad, oh, magnified the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. We're grateful and thankful to God that he has allowed us this another day, another hour, another privilege and another opportunity that we might gather before his presence to call upon his holy and righteous name. I'm grateful and thankful to God that you have decided...

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

We were still in our first home. And so Deandre was two years old. He grabs a microphone, and he starts screaming. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. And his mother says Deandre, you're going to be horse. So he screams and he's preaching. And yes, it is because he was screaming Jesus so much, he lost his voice. He put his microphone down, drank out of his sippy cup. Then put the sippy cup down, picked his microphone back up and he started continuing.

DeAndre's Mother:

He did.

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

He did so, yes.

DeAndre's Mother:

He's always been very intelligent. We call him wise beyond his years just because if you hold a conversation with him, even I will have to tell him, okay, dumb that down a little bit. You know, use layman terms with me. I'm your Mama, use layman terms. And so, but he's always been that kid.

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

Deandre is just, he's just always a character. He's always been a character.

DeAndre Bell Sr.:

I hear music over my head. I hear music. There must be a God somewhere. And even if your instrument has gotten down to only one string, if you can still make music, you can still rejoice because of what God has done for you. Granted brothers and sisters, our lives may not line up with the direction that we think they should line up, but all in all you and I should be able to rejoice that God has given us another chance to get it right.

DeAndre K. Bell:

He wanted to be a lawyer. My dad wanted to go to law school and he was called to preach instead. And it was crazy because over the past summer he said, “DeAndre, it's amazing to me how I couldn't do what I wanted to do, but God has led you to do the thing, the kind of things that I want to do. And not only that you've been led to not only be a lawyer, but to preach as well. So now you are doing twofold the things that I am doing.”

[DeAndre leads team prayer before the next tournament round in hallway next to courtroom]

DeAndre K. Bell:

Father God, you've given each of us a distinct and succinct talent father, God, you've given us each an element of this case that we can argue to the best of our abilities, so we thank you, father. God, we thank you for the objections. The rules of evidence, the case, the witnesses, the attorneys, the openings, the closings, the directs, the crosses. We thank you, father God for putting these words in our minds and our hearts and in our souls, Father God, so that we may not only show them who we are, but show them who you are, Father God, you have made this team. All that. It is Father God. So we thank you once more, Father God, if there's anything I forget to ask, please, don't neglect an answer. And in Jesus’ name. We pray. Amen.

Group:

Amen.

[Outside, streets of New Orleans during Homecoming weekend for Dillard University. Sounds of marching band drum line, crowds gathering and cheering, announcements over PA speakers]

Nick Harris:

So today we are celebrating Dillard University Homecoming parade. And so we all excited about us, our first parade for the season. When I say season, I mean the last two years, you know, because the COVID, everything was canceled. So we have a big parade in celebrating the coming back of Gentilly, coming back to the city of New Orleans and all the kids coming in.


[more sounds of marching band drumline going by, crowd cheers]


[The team gathers inside the Orleans Parish Courthouse to prepare for a virtual tournament, prepping the room]

Lajeanne Shelton:

Excuse me, Judge Reese?

Judge Kern Reese:

Yes, ma'am.


Lajeanne Shelton:

So sorry to interrupt. Is the Wi-Fi password the same with the @ sign?

Judge Kern Reese:

An @ sign?

Caitlin Douglas:

We're definitely still practicing. We had to adjust because of Homecoming week events. So we're having an extended three-hour practice tonight. So we're still doing the work.

Renee Simien:

This weekend is our regionals tournament. Unfortunately it was put online due to COVID 19, but this is the tournament that decides if our season is over or not, basically. If we make it past this, we'll go to like nationals and stuff like that. I'm kind of bummed because I really wish it would've been in person, but it is a lot of pressure now because like, this is my last shot at it.

Amaya:

She's going to switch out with you.

Renee:

Okay. I'm confused. Switch out. What y'all mean?

Amaya:

Like, you know how on defense? You're on. You're on defense and Taylor. [crosstalk 00:12:56] So can Taylor use yours?

Renee:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought you meant like switch out computer.

Amaya:

No. Oh no. DeAndre, please tell me you got the prelaw computer. Okay.

DeAndre K. Bell:

I definitely did, in my bag.

Renee:

Where's the clip. Let me help put it together.

Producer Jason Foster:

What are you guys doing right now?

Amaya:

We are putting together ring lights so that we can have good lighting for the competition. I'm excited because we're ready to, we're ready to kick some behind.

Adria:

Can someone test screen sharing please?

Amaya:

That's it. The defense is ready to proceed, your Honor.

Judge:

Please.

Amaya:

First, your Honor, I would like to acknowledge that Dakota Sutcliffe is constructively present throughout trial today and is constructively wearing a red tie.

Judge:

Okay.

Amaya:

Second, your Honor, I'm entering a character evidence form, which both parties have signed in the chat.

Adria Kimbrough:

In terms of the level of experience collectively. This is the most experienced team that we've had. And so this is our very best chance to make it back to the championship. And I like our chances. I was talking to some of them, even today. I was like, well, it's our last rodeo like this, this is it. And I would very much like for them to experience that joy. I mean, you think about you do all this work, this, all this excitement around, you know, a piece of plastic, essentially this trophy that you get, but it represents so much more than that.

Particularly for those students who have been on this team all four years of their college experience, it represents such a huge part of their dealer experience. They've invested a lot of time, energy and effort in an activity that they get no academic credit for. They don't get paid for it. They've invested a tremendous amount. And I would just love for them to be able to have the experience of making it to the championship before they leave here.

Amaya Ronczyk:

So I'm a senior, I'm actually applying to law school right now. I made this document when I was 19 years old. I'm 21 now. Before there were like maybe 80 schools on here and I've researched every single one until I was able to narrow it down to 15. Okay. So in this document, I've listed the institution, the rank of the institution. It was important to me that I had some institutions that could take me anywhere I wanted to go. And then I have these schools in green because my pre-law advisor thought that I should look into them to see my chances of getting a full-ride scholarship. So that's why I have those highlighted. But as far as the schools that I'm applying to in one category, as far as where I think I could get the most money is Fordham, Texas A&M, Northeastern, University of Miami, St. Johns and Howard. All of those have great financial aid programs based on my score.

And they also have a wide variety of individuals that look like me. I think the diversity is great at the schools. They have great clinics, and I would be happy going to either of them.

NYU has this great clinic by Bryan Stevenson who runs it. And they do a lot of death penalty work, capital punishment cases. And after reading his book Just Mercy and realizing how, how we treat people involved in the criminal justice system, specifically, those who were given the death penalty or on death row, I was really able to connect with it and not only see the humanity and the people that he was talking about, but I wanted to introduce that concept into the legal field. Even though there are empathetic lawyers, I don't think there are enough. People always say, well, how can you defend these types of people, or these types of people deserve this.

And it's really not that simple. So I would love to learn more from him. And plus NYU is I think the highest ranked criminal law program in the country, so. As far as the schools that I think can open the most doors are going to be Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, NYU, Georgetown, UT Austin, Boston university, University of Southern California, and Emory. All of those schools happen to rank very highly when it comes to placing students in federal clerkship after law school, which is a big deal. That's something that I'm interested in. And I want the door to be open for me if I decide to walk through it.

But my personal statement is mainly about a time in my life, where I felt that my voice wasn't being heard or that I was suppressing my feelings and how through mock trial, I was able to not only find my voice, but realize what I wanted to do now that I regained it.

Let me try to find a good part. Okay. Here's one paragraph I can read. ‘That same day I signed up for something called mock trial. Thinking I would learn a few things about speaking effectively. I began sitting in the back of practices and watching the student lawyers argue their cases. My coaches didn't let that fly for too long. They insisted I lead strategy discussions and present every side of the case until I knew the facts of the story like it were my own. The courtroom became the place where I felt the most comfortable. I learned that being a litigator isn't about the objections you make or how smart you sound. It's about the stories you tell.’

[team gathered in courtroom during break, some singing “Keep your eyes on the prize,” others are chatting]

Amaya Ronczyk:

I can catch a beat, but staying on it, that's another story.

Adria Kimbrough:

I just want to, I'm feeling a lot of pride in this, in this setup right now. I do that.

Amaya Ronczyk:

Okay. I'm going to try to do this without crying. No, I was just telling Ms. Frison and some others that my freshman year on the team. Ooh. I just remember being super nervous and just wanting to cry because I just didn't think I was ready. And then the tears that I have today is not from that place. I'm not anxious at all. I'm excited and I'm proud of each and every one of y'all and the growth that I've seen on the team. Like I'm not even I'm, [crying] I'm here to show up one last time for you guys at regionals. But no, I know that it's been stressful.

There's been tension on the team. There's been, you know, times where some of us wanted to quit. And, and I didn't, I didn't mean to look at nobody in particular, but you know, I'm, I'm just really excited for where you guys are at right now. And I can't wait to come back and be able to judge one of y'all's rounds and just to see how far y'all have come. [crying] Okay. That's it. That's it. But let's, let's go in there and kick butt and let's just win and do what we came here to do.

Lajeanne Shelton:

Happy Black History month, y'all! We got the ancestors with us!

[Online competition begins]

Amaya Ronczyk:

Hello, your Honor. My name is Amaya Ronczyk and alongside my co-counsel Deandre K bell II.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Hello, your Honor.

Amaya Ronczyk:

And Reneé Simien.

Reneé Simien:

Hello, your Honor.

Amaya Ronczyk:

We proudly represent Dakota Sutcliff in this matter.


Amaya Ronczyk:

And you don't know what debris or evidence they moved away from Jaylen.

Witness:

No, I'm not aware I was outside.

Amaya Ronczyk:

And you also didn't interview these officers after your investigation, did you?

Witness:

No.

Amaya Ronczyk:

You also didn't require them to write a report about what debris was removed.

Other Team:

Your Honor, relevance and lack of [inaudible 00:20:46]

Amaya Ronczyk:

Objection, your Honor to facts. Not in evidence or testifying to facts, not in evidence.

Judge:

Can you explain your objection?

Amaya:

Yes, your Honor. Opposing counsel is eliciting information, hearsay information from an article that has not yet been entered.


Judge:

Okay, take a five-minute break.


[team prepares for DeAndre’s closing in the courtroom]

Lejeanne Shelton:

Okay. I got to get ready to help him turn off the lights. [runs across to other side of room] I'm going to go stand in my spot. Do you want him to get on yours?

Amaya:

Okay. Do the tester. DeAndre, get back in the room and you...

Lejeanne Shelton:

Go get in the back of the room. I have to switch the lights off.

DeAndre:

Turn the lights off real quick.

Lejeanne Shelton:

Deandre has a little demonstrative he does for his closing because the whole contention is that the witnesses, they bought to make an identification possibly couldn't have made it because they claim somebody in a black, in all black with a black hoodie, pulled up at a three force angle with a lights off is obviously this person. So he's going to go 50 feet away with a black hoodie on and we're going to turn the lights off.

Producer Jason Foster:

So is this a, this a hail Mary?

Lajeanne Shelton:

It, it very much is a Hail Mary.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Your Honor, opposing counsel members of the jury at the beginning of today's trial, you heard my co-counsel come before you and tell you that the prosecution did not wait for the smoke to clear. And now by the end of trial, you've seen that before the smoke of the Chuggies fire was able to dissipate before a clear picture of what actually happened on July 31st was made prevalent before a thorough investigation was completed.

The prosecution rushed to try and convict my client Dakota Sutcliff of aggravated arson. And so don't believe it. [he walks towards the back of the room] Wait for the smoke to clear because had the prosecution waited for the smoke to clear, they would've understood that a figure standing not five, not 10, not 15, not 20, not 30, not 40, but 50 feet away standing at a three-quarter angle with a hoodie on their hood raised up and the lights off would've rendered a verdict in today's case of not guilty.


Amaya:

We're good.

Lajeanne:

We're good?

Amaya:

We're good. [applause] I'm loving it.


Team Competitor: [via Zoom]

Yes, your Honor.


[Team gathered and reacting after DeAndre’s closing]

Group:

Yes, indeed! Yes, indeed.

Female Voice 1:

I told Ms. Frison I said, I hate that question, but he loves it.

Female Voice 2:

Just like this. He went better.

Female Voice 1:

Oh no. He, he ate that up.

Group:

[crosstalk 00:24:31] [laughter]

Female Voice:

I'm so glad that like,

Female Voice:

That was good. That was good. That was way.

Renee:

We also kept our cool. I think that's so you did that's progress.


Adria:

That's real. That's real progress for the team. That's really that's real progress for the team growth because it's growth because certainly like the trial was great, but the fact that y'all were unflappable, like that's progress. Cause y'all know how we do. I said, you see this judge is not here for objection arguments. You see this other team is not really objecting at all. Like I hope we sense the temperature in the room and adjust. And I think we did.


Christina Watkins News Anchor: [from archival TV report WDSU Channel 6 NBC News New Orleans “Dillard University receives bomb threat”]

Historically black colleges and universities across the country have been the target of several bomb threats. This year, Dillard university in New Orleans is the latest HBCU to get a bomb threat. Leaders say several law enforcement agencies were called in this morning and they're investigating where this threat came from. Stay with us here at WDSU. As we continue to get updates on this developing story.


Producer Jason Foster

What do think about all these bomb threats?

Caitlin Douglas:

Oh God, the fact it's happening around black history month.

Lajeanne Shelton:

Right? Very much terrorist. It's giving Klan now knows how to use the internet. It's giving he's we can't burn crosses anymore, but we can sure. Use a telephone it's giving new Grand Wizard is a young person.

Caitlin Douglas:

Shut up, because that's very much true.

Lajeanne Shelton:

No. Do you think they follow Robert’s Rules of Order at they meetings? They was like, somebody was like, okay, we have a motion on the floor to do these seven schools this week. Can, can I.

Caitlin Douglas:

Get a second?

Lajeanne Shelton:

Can I get a second point of order? Yes, I Grand Wizard recognizes Brother Jeffrey.

Caitlin Douglas:

Next point of business. I'm going to be honest. We've been getting bomb threats probably since I was in middle school. Come on now. Like.

Lajeanne Shelton:

It's very much getting old white supremacists need to find something new.

Caitlin Douglas:

At this point, if I get bombed, I'm going to heaven.


Caitlin Douglas:

I've had very racist experience. My first racist experience in Shreveport was in the fourth grade at the elementary school. My grandmother was a cafeteria manager at, and the teacher was going around in the circle asking if everybody what their nicknames were and my nickname is K.K. in my household. And so I said, my nickname's K.K. And of course she made a joke about the KKK, me. Yes, she did in front of a room full of Black children. And I went home laughing about it. Cause I was a kid I didn't know about the KKK in the fourth grade, you know? And so I go home and tell them the joke, nobody's laughing and they have to sit me down and talk to me about racism.

[video call with Caitlin and her grandmother, Carlois Douglas]

Caitlin Douglas:

Hey Granny! Turn your, turn your screen down some, Ladybug. Down. Down. Yeah. Perfect. Perfect. Just like that, like that.

Carlois Douglas:

Okay. Okay. My name is Carlois Douglas and I am Caitlin Douglas’ grandmother. The neighborhood I grew up in was, it was good. It was basically, I guess, more like a family oriented, different family living in that little neighborhood, the little, small neighborhood, and everybody got along. We went to school together and most of them, you know, after they grew up finished high school, they just left and went to different states.

Caitlin Douglas:

I was attached to her hip all the time. That's my best friend right there. She knows. She's amazing. She's very protective, very supportive. She's the matriarch of our family. And you know, you guys, y'all are talking to an angel right now, so I need y'all to cherish the moment and absorb it because she is literally the reason why I'm still on the earth. You know? I talked to her as I got older about during that time, I was having suicidal thoughts as a kid, you know? And it's hard to talk with her about it. Not because she doesn't want to talk about it, but because it's like she wanted to protect me.

Carlois Douglas:

She ended up her mother ended up transferring her over to the school where I worked at. And by me working there, they would bring her to me. And I'm like, Caitlin, what are you doing? And she would tell me this and that because Caitlin's real smart. And I think that was probably. [crying]

Jason Foster:

That's okay. Take your time.

Carlois Douglas:

Okay. And that was basically, and that was, that was basically it.

Caitlin Douglas:

Before I came to school to Dillard to like finish my Bachelor's. I found all my grandmother and my mom kept very thorough records and documented it, all the encounters I ever had in elementary school, they kept them. And so I sat in the bathroom with the door, closed at my grandma's house and I start reading it and I just start crying. Like I just, I just was crying and controlled me because I just, I never understood why kids were so cruel to me.

Carlois Douglas:

And she was good. And she grew up to be Caitlin. She just kept going. She never stopped. She never gave up. I believe she's going to become that attorney and she's going to be good at defending other people. And she's going to always stand out for what she believes in.

Caitlin Douglas:

I am heavily involved in activism back home in Shreveport, Louisiana. Like we just had a police chief step down resign at thank god, after god knows how long. We were protesting in solidarity for George Floyd. But we were really protesting for Tommie McGlothen Jr., Wavey Austin, Dante Shabell, these people who had been either killed in police custody or murdered and no justice had been solved. Like, you know what I mean, in Shreveport and making sure that people understood that the issues you see on television are happening right now at, at the local level.

Caitlin Douglas: [via archival video from community protests in Shreveport, Louisiana]

The city of Shreveport faces its own issues with police brutality. Therefore, We the People wish to create policies that encourage accountability within the street port police department, make sure they serve and protect citizens and ultimately create a better working relationship between the police government and the public. [cheers and applause] They serve to construct and implement a citizen's review board that is independent from the police department to handle any investigations of crimes involving law enforcement. Whenever harmful methods are employed. [cheers and applause]

To require SPD applicants to test for implicit racial bias, the creation and implementation of a good neighbor policy, which will create immunity for anyone who saves a human being from, but not limited to being put, being pummeled assaulted or murdered by the police in accordance with Warren V District of Columbia and the duty to rescue doctrine. [cheers and applause] We encourage you to accept this challenge and show the world the power we have when we stand as one and fight for justice for all. [cheers and applause]

Caitlin Douglas:

My grandmother is the person that I can always go to. She really instilled in me what equity is, what equality is and how nobody deserves to be mistreated. Everybody deserves to be treated with love and respect. And so, you know, Granny, thank you for that. I really love you, from the bottom of my heart. You always know. I always tell you everything I do is because of you and our family and what our family means to us, so. I love you and thank you.

Carlois Douglas:

I love you too.


[team gathered before next round of competition]

Sterling Bond:

I think it, I think it was really good yesterday. I think yesterday was nice. I got called charming by an old white man. I was like, okay, cool. I don't know how to feel about this, but that was nice. I think, I think yesterday, yesterday went pretty good.

Adria Kimbrough:

So, you know, I was telling DeAndre this. I said, I think round three tells us a lot. So the team is going blind this weekend. You probably know this cause I'm sure you've asked how are y'all doing? And nobody knows the answer. We went against the University of Pennsylvania, fine school with a very competitive mock trial team. Even their B team is competitive regularly makes it to the championship. And so what that tells us is that was at, that was the level of competition where we were at this point in the regionals this weekend. So, so I'm just saying let's, we're not going to lay down on Round Four. It's too, it's too important. It could be. It could be the thing that makes a difference.


[next round of competition]

Lajeanne Shelton:

Your evidence will show that as Chuggies burned and smoldered, the defendant watched as their financial burdens disappeared with the smoke in the air. And as the prosecution, we believe that in order to uphold the integrity of our great city, we must hold the defendant accountable for their actions. Imagine with me, if you will, you are on your way to this very courtroom today, and you are about to step up off your porch. You look down to the ground and you see that it is wet. There are water droplets on your car, there are water droplets on the grass and the sky is gray. Now because of that evidence, you don't have to pull out your phone to check the weather just to see it has just rained. You can reasonably conclude it has. You can apply that scenario to this very case today.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Ladies and gentlemen, this was an unreliable investigation. And to top it all off, Detective Weber came to the stand and told you that all of this was unnecessary.

Lajeanne Shelton:

Your Honor, at this time, we would like to publish exhibit seven E which has already been pre entered into evidence to the jury. This is a report from the Five-Point Mutual Insurance who owns a fire policy, taken out by the defendant stating on August 2nd, the day after the fire, the defendant filed a claim for the $1.5 million and they thus denied the claim and relating to this exact exhibit. We would like to point the court's attention to state...

[team gathered after round]

Amaya Ronczyk:

I just wanted to say y'all. I know we were frustrated for Round 2. We were frustrated for Round 3, but now it was like a new trial. We put that behind us. I know as a leader, sometimes it's hard for me to stuff my feelings down and be like, no, we still got this. And y'all obviously saw me break down, Ooh, during the break. But you know, I'm human or whatever, or whatever. And I just, I think my main thing is not because we did bad or that it was like something that I'm like, I'm doubting you or anything, but it's really, I just want to see that everything that we worked for really plays out the way that it should. And I know I annoyed a lot of y'all this year. I was hounding y'all. I was asking y'all to do things y'all didn't want to do, but I think it was for the greater good.

I know it was for the greater good. And I think that it's time to lay it all out on the table for this last round, I have full confidence that we can take both ballots. So I'm trying not to cry, because, like, I did spend an hour on my makeup, but just keep that in mind when there's an objection battle. When another attorney is winning and you're not when a judge doesn't seem like she's invested to be here, keep that in mind because our, our purpose is greater. We're here to get 10 points on everything we do. So with that being said, DeAndre, if you could just do a quick little prayer and then we could get started.

DeAndre K. Bell:

All right, bow your, close your eyes. Father come to us now. Once again saying thank you, father, God, thank you for bringing us thus far. Now I ask for your strength, your guidance, your resilience, and your love, your passion, your faith Father God. So that we use all of that in this last round. Give us the openings, give us the closings. Give us the victory and all that we seek to do Father God for we declare victory right now in the name of Jesus, father, God, we declare going horse. We declare going to nationals right now. And so I ask that you make it so, father God in the name of Jesus there's anything I forget to ask, please, don't neglect answering for in your darling son we pray. Amen.

Group:

Amen.

[end of Round continues]

Judge:

Okay, we're going to go ahead with closing arguments, Ms. Ronczyk, is that how you pronounce it?

Amaya Ronczyk:

Yes, your Honor.

Judge:

Okay. Why don't you go ahead.

Amaya Ronczyk:

May it please the court, opposing counsel members of the jury on August 1st, 2020, detective Weber responded to a call that Chuggies Bar and Restaurant was on fire. He learned that this bar belonged to the defendant and was insured for $1 million. And these damages that we've shown you today, show you exactly how that fire erupted. We learned that the defendant burned his own, build, her own building for money.

But to burn a building for money is a crime here in Midlands, a crime called aggravated arson and every witness we brought to you and every piece of evidence we've shown you was to prove that the defendant is the woman who committed this crime. We had to prove three elements to you. One that the defendant committed an act of arson with the purpose to defraud. Two, that defendant acted knowingly and three that the defendant created a substantial risk of serious physical harm to emergency personnel Jaylen Williams.

We had to prove these three things to you beyond a reasonable doubt, which basically means that by the end of this trial, if you can reasonably conclude that the only person who did this crime was the defendant, then we've done our job. They want you to forget that their family is counting on us to do what's just, they want you to forget that their family wakes up every single day, hoping that they'll see their son again, that they want to believe that this is all a dream. That they cry at the thought of someone else taking over his locker or his seat at the dinner table. Members of the jury, the real victim is not here today.

The villain in today's case is the defendant. The defendant is the person with the plan. The defendant is the person with the motive. The defendant is the person who the day after the fire with not even enough time to mourn their business, requested that 1.5 million in full. Members of the jury, do what's just in today's case, we've done our job. We've proven these elements to you beyond a reasonable doubt. So now it's your time, your moment to do what's right in today's case. And to show the defendant that when they burn their building, they can't get away with it. We must hold them accountable, find them guilty. Thank you.

Judge:

Thank you, counsel.


[team gathers after Amaya’s closing]

Lajeanne Shelton

That's what I'm talking about.

Judge Kern Reese:

It was so good. Oh my God. It was so good. You couldn't ask for anything better. Whoo! [applause]

Adria Kimbrough:

The best closing ever like that you have ever done, like ever like what a way to go out. Oh my God. The best ever. And look what they are like you cross the – [crosstalk] It was beautiful. I mean just like perfect. It really was.

DeAndre K. Bell:

She said I'm crying, but it just sounds like I’m laughing.

[crying]


[Competition hosts announce winners of the tournament via Zoom]

Competition Host Female Voice:

It's time to announce our bids. Ben, do you want to start us off?

Ben:

Happily. The team with the first bid out of regional one A. Had a record of 8 wins. 1092 UABC. [cheers and applause]

Competition Host Female Voice:

With 7 wins, A CS of 19 and a [inaudible 00:41:32] plus 46 team 1487, Dartmouth College. [cheers and applause]

Ben:

The CS of 16 and a half and a PD of plus 38 team 1213, Pennsylvania B. [cheers and applause]

Competition Host Female Voice:

Our first team with six wins with a CS of 16-1/2, a PD of plus 39 team 1216, Dillard.

Group:

[team fills room with cries, cheers, and shouts of joy] Oh my god! Oh! Yes! Oh my god! You did it! Oh, lord Jesus! Oh my god. We did it! Yes! We did it!


[archival audio from the Senate Committee of the Judiciary Hearing “Combating the Rise in Hate Crimes” from March 8, 2022]


Senator Dick Durbin:

We're hardly three months into 2022. And already our nation has seen a spate of hate crime. Dr. Kimbrough.

Walter Kimbrough, President, Dillard University:

Good afternoon, Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Chuck Grassley. And thank you for the invitation members of the Committee on the Judiciary and a special Louisiana acknowledgement to Senator Kennedy. My name is Walter Kimbrough, and I am the president of Dillard University in New Orleans. I am in my 18th year as an HBCU president.

Since the beginning of January, we have seen an unprecedented number of threats against historically black colleges and universities. For all practical purposes, every HBCU has been threatened. These threats have disrupted normal operations causing classes to be canceled or hastily moved online. Unsettled students and parents already weary from the two-year toll of COVID and in cities like New Orleans disrupted last fall by a hurricane, which left an entire major American city without power for days. These threats take an even heavier toll. We need federal law enforcement agencies to redouble their efforts to catch the wolves.


[archival audio from WDSU Channel 6 NBC News New Orleans “Dillard University Mock Trial Team heads to Nationals”]

[audio from video taken during the announcement from competition that the Dillard team won the bid to attend AMTA Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) Regional Tournament, screams of joy, cries and cheers]

Christina Watkins News Anchor:

Well, look at that, so much excitement coming from Dillard university. This is the mock trial team, and they are on the road to nationals, ladies and gentlemen, and get this they're going to compete in the opening round championship series out of 24 teams in the region, Dillard is one of six to advance.


[exterior street and city sound of Memphis, Tennessee, police sirens, car traffic]

AMTA Regional Tournament Host from Rhodes College [inside Judge D’Army Bailey Courthouse]:

We're going to go ahead and get started. And I, and I will just for a moment, take just a second to say, welcome to everybody. We are really excited to have you all in Memphis. We are really excited to be here in the courthouse. I did want to just say a couple things about this courthouse. It is a historic building. You might have recognized some of the spaces in this building it's been featured in a lot of feature films, including The Firm, The Client, Walk the Line. Basically any legal movie that's been set in Memphis has probably had some filming done here. And we hope that you all enjoy kind of get to getting to live your John Grisham fantasy this weekend.


DeAndre K. Bell:

I made a post to LinkedIn actually last night using the picture that we took on the, so the courthouse and I mentioned how the atmosphere of the courthouse was far different than something I've experienced from mock trial before. The D'Army Bailey courthouse is named after Black man. So let's start there. The amount of history that is held when you have a bunch of Black kids standing on the steps of a courthouse named for a Black man in a city that is so historic to the civil rights of Black people. It's, it's very powerful.


[Opening ceremony of AMTA ORCS Regional Tournament]

AMTA ORCS Tournament Host Male Voice:

So with that, we can go ahead and flip the coin. Mike has that.

Mike:

It is tails. Our next card from the D group is team 1216 Dillard. And from group a 1581 Northwestern. So those are your first-round pairings.

Male Voice:

And we're getting the boards made right now that will have the room numbers on them will also...

Anna Eldridge: [inside the hallway of the Judge D’Army Bailey Courthouse]

Also for that. My name is Anna Eldridge. I am the director of mock trial and pre-law advising at Rhodes College and we are the tournament host for the Memphis Opening Round Championship Series. So my responsibility was to run the tournament. You know, everybody at this point has already competed at Invitationals. They've already competed at Regionals. And you know, this is the tournament where, you know, everybody in the field is really strong. The stakes are really high because everybody just really wants to be in that final field of 48. And the goal is to pick the best six teams out of each field to advance to the final 48 teams in April.

You know, you've got the top six ranked teams in the country that are at this field are in the A group. And some of the teams that are here for the first time that have not competed at this tournament before or not gone to nationals before, teams like Dillard, are ranked in the D group. They're going to be matching up against the A group in round one. And I think that's going to, that's going to make for interesting matchups. And then as the tournament goes on, we'll keep hitting different teams in different categories to see ultimately who has the highest number of ballots. So how many judges thought you were the better team against each of your opponents.


[team gathers before Round 1, Lajeanne leads team chant]

Lajeanne Shelton:

Okay, let's go. So y'all know you got to rock with it. Come on. This team. Best team. Black team. Strong team. I love my team. [Leading chant 00:48:32].

Group:

This team. Best team. Black team. Strong team. I love my team! [Following chant 00:48:42].

Lajeanne Shelton:

Let's get in there and do what we came in here to do! [cheers and applause]


Caitlin Douglas:

Who you, who you rolling with?


Group: D!


Caitlin Douglas: What’s the rest?


Group: U!

Judge Kern Reese:

Let's go try the case.


[Inside courtroom, Round 1 begins]

Lajeanne Shelton:

Your Honor, opposing counsel members of the jury, may it please the court. Follow the hoodie. On August 1st, 2020 Jaylon Williams, a Midland Center firefighter heard the alarms of the fire station ringing, meaning that it was time for him to once again, risk his life. With no second thought and no hesitation, he grabbed his gear and rushed onto the fire truck. And unfortunately, you will learn that search and rescue mission did end in one casualty. And on that very day, Midlands lost a hero and a citizen. The most important, a family lost a father, the sons they all lost Jaylon Williams.


[team huddles in between rounds]

Lajeanne Shelton:

There's no regrets here. That's right. No regrets. Ain't nothing. Ain't no regrets in here. I love y'all so much. And I'm going to be writing the pews behind you and praising PR them in the thing, show you right when y'all get up there and get, I'm going to be writing my little sermon notes in the back of my bulletin. [laughter] Let let's pull on a great show. Let's put on the performance. Let's put on a great case.


Renee Simien:

I don't know if anybody notice whenever we walked in this morning, but we made a full circle back to the beginning. And I thought about that. I just thought about how life is a full circle. You know, the beginning of life and the end of life. And I thought about our coaches always say what we need to win. It's already side of us. [crying] What we need to win is already here. That was the beginning. So I know right now we're at the end and we're round four, but this is actually our beginning again.

Group:

Yeah. Yes.


Renee Simien:

To the next chapter that we have. And we just came back to it. So when y'all go to that route, remember everything you need to win is already inside you. That was important for y'all.

Group:

Yeah.

Amaya:

Don't make me cry.

Caitlin Douglas:

You know, when we need to be here, we show up and end, end of the day. And it's coming back full circle, Renee and Amaya and I do with imposter syndrome. And when I say y'all are younger than me and y'all really do inspire me. The job I have the leadership that I have, the confidence that I have, the struggles I'm overcoming with the LSAT. There's so much other things. This team is a godsend. Amaya. All of y'all everybody. Thank you.

Amaya Ronczyk:

I'm just very proud of y'all. I'm not even as nervous as I was going into Regionals. You know, that was my last shot. Getting out of there. And now that we're here, I'm just excited for where we can go. I'm not nervous at all. I have full confidence in every one of y'all and I'm, I'm just, I can't explain how much I'm proud of y'all. So thank you.

Caitlin Douglas:

And we proud of you, too. [cheers and applause]

Renee Simien:

Do the I love my team, so we can go inside.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Has coach eyes and assume and attitude, prayer, Father God, for the millions of time, we thank you. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I cannot stop saying it enough for all that you have done and all that you will do for this team. Thank you, Father God, as we go into this national season, I ask that you watch over everyone on this team. Everyone has given so much Father God, everyone has lost a part of themselves to give to this team father. So I ask that you restore us tenfold father God. Now, if there's anything I you to ask, please, don't agree to answer for in your darling son, Jesus, and we pray. Amen.

Group:

Amen.


[audio from Round]

Amaya:

Like your attorney stated you're facing life in prison.

Witness:

Yeah. I don't know how much time I got left, but I'm here for a good time. Not a long time. You know?

Amaya:

You're here today, testifying on behalf of the prosecution.

Witness:

Yeah.

Amaya:

And the prosecution has offered you a plea deal. Yeah. That's what they told me. Yeah. And that in that plea deal, you may face 10 to 20 years, right?

Witness:

Yeah. I'm not sure I'll make it that long, but sure.

Amaya:

That's under the condition that you testify against the defendant. Isn't that true?

Witness:

Yeah. There's someone said they wanted me to help out. Yeah.

DeAndre K. Bell:

And you know, now I want to ask you about the night in question you say you saw someone around 12 o'clock Right?

Witness:

Yes, I did.

DeAndre K. Bell:

It was dark outside.

Witness:

It was, it was around midnight, but there were some street lights.

DeAndre K. Bell:

They had a hoodie on?

Witness:

They did, it was a dark hoodie, a dark clothes. And I was surprised it was so hot outside.

DeAndre K. Bell:

As a matter of fact, the hood was up. Isn't that right?

Witness:

It was, you must have been hot.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Now you saw this person for about one second. Isn't that correct?

Witness:

Yeah. Yeah. That sounds about right.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Now. As you observed, you said you were 50 feet away. Isn't that right?

Witness:

Give or take. Yes, sir.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Now you didn't see this person go through the back door of Chuggy's, right?

Witness:

No, I did not.

DeAndre K. Bell:

You also didn't see anyone go through the front door.

Witness:

No, I can't see the front from the back.

DeAndre K. Bell:

Thank you, your Honor. I have nothing further. Now the defense does not disagree with the fact that arson indeed was committed in this case. But what we do disagree with, is who did it. Members of the jury, the burden in today's case, the state's burden in today's case is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That must mean they must prove each of the elements I just listed to you beyond that reasonable doubt members of the jury, that is the highest burden in our judicial system and suffice us to say, they have failed to meet that burden. But members of the jury have to ask ourselves who saw what?

Miss Sing. Didn't see anyone go into or out of Chuggies. Miss Sing didn't see anyone go through the alleyway. Miss Sing couldn't even see anyone. If they were to have gone through the front, because at the prosecution waited for the smoke to clear. They would've understood that someone wearing a random jacket one day with the hood raised upstanding, not five, not 10, not 15, not 20, but 50 feet away with the hood raised and the lights off would've rendered a verdict in today's case of not guilty. Thank you.

[AMTA Regional ORCS Host announces teams who will win the bid to Nationals]

Tournament Host Male Voice:

So I will begin with the team that finished with the best record. We had one team finished with seven wins, zero losses and one tie.

Caitlin Douglas:

Jesus.

Tournament Host Male Voice:

Team 1216.

Group:

[crosstalk 00:56:29] [cheers, screams, applause, crying] Oh lord! Oh my god! Yes, yes, yes. We did it! Whoo!


Lajeanne Shelton:

We showed them we were Black! We got the best record!

Group chatter crosstalk:

My chest like I can't -- when I sit in the evaluation form. So let's go get these, let's go get this trophy. Let's go get and they better not run out of our attorney awards. This award on the front.

We won first. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. Jesus said it. We won first. We won first place. We just won first play, play first place. We won first place.

Come on in, come on, come on else.


Lajeanne Shelton:

Okay. If this part of the thing ends up on the news, it's going to be a problem.


Group chatter:

No, Black people in the front. We won first. Not second, not third. We are the Alpha. So when we become top number one in the nation.

Amaya:

And I have my songs picked, picked out all the video, “Seeing Green” by Nicki Minaj.


Renee Simien:

Let's go. Cause we won. We won.


[interior of Dillard University mock trial classroom with the team and coaches]

Adria Kimbrough:

All right, so with that, if you all will indulge me, we need to do a quick room change. We're going to go to room 164, which we all are familiar with just right here around the corner. You can leave. If you need to, you can leave some of your things.

Katie Phang:

So I've heard that this is possibly your last season. Is that true?

Adria Kimbrough:

This is true?

Katie Phang:

Well, how does that make you feel? I mean, you clearly put more than just the check the box energy, into this.

Adria Kimbrough:

Yeah. It's you know, mixed feelings for sure. I have in, I mean, this has been just really like the blessing of a lifetime. I really have received so much from being in community with these students. Or being able to sort of walk along with them on this part of their journey and to see the progress of this team, the collective, and then the individuals who passed this way. It is just been the blessing of a lifetime. You know? It is, it is sad. I guess I can use the word sad. It, I do feel some sense of sadness.

Katie Phang:

Maybe bittersweet? Is it a little bittersweet?

Adria Kimbrough:

Yeah. Bittersweet. Because this has been so much of my life for, you know, fair, fair amount of time. The thing that is sweet about it is just seeing the growth people outside the team on the campus know that like, oh wow, you're on the mock trial team. They know that means something serious. Like the team has a reputation on campus. Like, no, they, they are serious and they are good. And it means something to them and it means something on the campus. And I think we've got, you know, students who have bought into that to where, you know, that will continue beyond this beyond this year and beyond this season.

[music, solo piano plays “Go Tell it on The Mountain”]


Jason Goss, St. Mary’s University coach:

This is fun. I mean, it's, you know, it's stressful, but it's fun. I mean, you know, getting these, getting to the break, we always tell them that all we can prepare you for is to break because once you're in the break ground, you're always going against a school. That's as good as you are. There's so many variables that right now, we're just all hanging on for the ride.

Katie Phang [narration]:

That's next time on Class Action. Class Action is a production of iHeartRadio and sound argument. Created, produced, written and edited by Kevin Huffman and Lisa Gray. Additional story production by Jennifer Swan, Jason Foster and Wendy Nardi. Executive producers are Taylor Chicoine and Katrina Norvelle. Sound, design, editing, and mixing by Evan Tyor and Taylor Chicoine. This episode had additional field production by Jason Foster.

This episode had additional field production by Jason Foster, Davis Land, Thomas Walsh, and Matt Wymer.

For more podcasts from iHeartRadio visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your favorite shows.

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END