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  • Ask the Case Committee Chair

    The "Ask the Tab Director" thread got a positive response, so I've decided to do a similar thing for the Case Committee. Now that State v. Hendricks is over, I can speak a little bit more freely about the case. Also feel free to ask about writing cases generally or anything else. Just know that I wasn't on the committee that wrote the NCT case, so I don't have any insights that can help with your preparation. All my responses should be considered to be in my personal capacity and not on behalf of AMTA.

    About me:
    * Competed for Miami University 2006 to 2010;
    * Coach of Duke University 2010 to 2013;
    * Coach of the Ohio State University 2014 to present;
    * Chair of the Criminal Case Committee for State v. ABC and State v. Hendricks.

    AMA.

  • #2
    Morgan Jones!

    First, what did you think of the witness? Do you think he was as bad as everyone else, or do you think he was underrated? If you think he wasn't good, what was the motivation behind not actually helping him too much with the case changes? Also, do you intentionally write witnesses that you think aren't as good calls for any reason?

    On the defense side, Reeves was clearly a very strong witness, but they had a kind of "third witness" problem. Do you think the Morrison's time line stuff could actually be used effectively? What was behind the decision to give him the sighting of Dylan at 10:45 in the case changes.

    How does the case change process work? How do you decide which witnesses to make stronger/weaker, and whether make one side stronger or the other weaker? Do you sometimes change cases just to change things?

    Also, a personal question: Pro-brick or anti-brick?

    Comment


    • #3
      abluebond , thanks for working on the case .

      1. What are some things in the case that people took advantage of or ran with that you as a case writer totally didn't expect?

      2. What are some things you wrote into the case that you are surprised no one noticed and/or took advantage of?

      3. Broadly speaking, what are some differences you feel in coaching in a year where you wrote the case vs a year where you don't participate in the writing?

      Comment


      • #4
        Were there any facts/witnesses/etc. that almost made it into the case but were cut at the last minute? Alternatively, were there any witnesses that were originally written differently?

        Comment


        • #5
          How do you balance the kinds of evidence included with a case (between story evidence, physical things, maps, ect)? Do you design evidence around particular evidentiary problems/ is there any weight given to trying to "teach" an area of evidentiary law? Do you have a favorite exhibit from this case?

          ​​​​​​What comes first in the case writing process? A story idea? Particular witnesses? A type of charge? Is the first draft the work of one person, that is then edited by committee or is it committee work the entire way? How do you approach balance during the initial drafting process before you have any data?
          Last edited by Ali Thomas; March 30th, 2018, 11:27 AM.

          Comment


          • #6
            I want to know how any and all of the names got picked for this case.

            Where did Dylan Hendricks come from? Did the first draft just list Dylan as "D" for defendant, and then changed to Dylan later?
            Why are there multiple witnesses who don't have first names? Did you just kinda give up on Nichols and Longfellow?
            Is Bailey really gender neutral? It's the 83rd most popular girl's name in the US, but as a boy's name, it's ranked at a paltry 665th most popular. How big a disparity does there needs to be before a name is no longer considered gender neutral?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Valinthronix View Post

              Morgan Jones!

              First, what did you think of the witness? Do you think he was as bad as everyone else, or do you think he was underrated? If you think he wasn't good, what was the motivation behind not actually helping him too much with the case changes?
              Morgan is a tough witness, but I saw teams call Morgan effectively throughout the year. In fact, some of my OSU teams called Morgan. When writing the case, I primarily saw Morgan and Kerry as alternatives to each other. Morgan's facts were definitely not as strong as Kerry's, but the cross was also a lot less damning. Morgan also doesn't get the sympathy points Kerry does, but I think Morgan was a little more versatile than Kerry. Morgan could be sad or funny or really whatever you wanted. That gave teams a way describe the attack if they didn't have a convincing victim. But at the same time, I saw teams call Morgan and Kerry together and it worked fine for them. Morgan was a character eyewitness and Kerry was sympathetic. They ran into problems with the drug contradiction, but I think it was doable.

              Morgan was given the gloves before the attack in the December changes, if I remember correctly. I didn't see much need to make Morgan stronger with the ORCS changes.

              Originally posted by Valinthronix View Post

              Also, do you intentionally write witnesses that you think aren't as good calls for any reason?
              No, I do not. I might think a swing witness works better on one side of the case than another, but all witnesses are intended to be used. Too much work goes into each witness for it to be nothing other than a red herring of sorts. There are also call orders that exist that I think are mistakes, but of course that's just my opinion as a coach and maybe those call orders work for other teams. Even so, I am fine with "bad" call orders existing because it was ultimately up to each team to choose not to do them.

              Originally posted by Valinthronix View Post

              On the defense side, Reeves was clearly a very strong witness, but they had a kind of "third witness" problem.
              I'm not sure what the question is here, so...maybe.

              Originally posted by Valinthronix View Post

              Do you think the Morrison's time line stuff could actually be used effectively? What was behind the decision to give him the sighting of Dylan at 10:45 in the case changes.
              Yes, I think Morrison timeline things were effective if you could convey it clearly. That was the challenge. As a defense side character, Morrison had the potential to really swing case balance. The substance couldn't be too strong, and of course we can't give the defendant a true alibi from an unbiased witness. But talking to judges and my students' parents who watched rounds, they often found Morrison to be one of the most important witnesses. My hypothesis is that to someone who isn't as wrapped up in the timeline as we are, the Morrison "alibi" seemed more convincing.

              The purple gloves scene was added to give P cross points on an otherwise difficult to cross witness, especially if P did not go after timeline evidence.

              Originally posted by Valinthronix View Post

              How does the case change process work? How do you decide which witnesses to make stronger/weaker, and whether make one side stronger or the other weaker? Do you sometimes change cases just to change things?
              I can only speak to how the process has worked on the two committees I've been on. I'll give a high level response, and if you have more specific questions you can follow up.

              For error corrections/typo edits, we rely heavily on the submissions we receive. Some changes are meant to correct holes that "break" the case. That is, gaps in the case that people find and exploit that give one side or the other an unfair advantage. We know people are always looking for these (and we don't blame you), so we are always on the lookout for those.

              We also are on the lookout for "inappropriate" case theories or witness portrayals. My tolerance for this is pretty high. I tend to think judges take care of this with low scores. But for example, we added the stipulation about Kerry's injuries not being consistent with suicide to deter teams from running a suicide-based defense. We didn't think any student should sit through a round where the defense is going over the details of a suicide. It also just changes the nature of the case so much that once the defense runs that theory, we are no longer really playing the same game anymore.

              Throughout the year, we are also monitoring witness call rates and case balance. We make adjustments to ensure that all witnesses are being used and get the case as close to balanced as possible. In a criminal case especially, correcting for balance always means helping the prosecution.

              ORCS changes are made just for the sake of mixing things up. Those are the scariest for us as the case committee, because they are large changes that go untested before some of the most important tournaments of the year. Will Mitchell be called? Will giving D the brick and threat letter wreck case balance? Will we unwittingly write some huge hole into the case that we can't correct? These questions kept me up at night before the first weekend of ORCS.

              Originally posted by Valinthronix View Post

              Also, a personal question: Pro-brick or anti-brick?
              I'm obviously biased, but I was very pro brick. I think having the brick come through the window gave Dylan a plausible reason why Dylan would get the gun that wasn't a plan to murder Kerry. Of course, if the prosecution wanted to lean into the brick, they could more or less concede that Kerry threw it and say that was the final straw that pushed Dylan into wanting to kill Kerry. Having it play both ways by design. Actually having the brick instead of just a picture gave people something more dramatic to hold and swing around.

              If I could have every exhibit by an actual object instead of a picture, I would. Here's fun little piece of trivia: we originally planned for teams to be able to bring in the capsules shown in the Everest picture so that you could have "real" Everest. Ultimately, concerns about students carrying fake drugs through airport and courthouse security caused us to take them out.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by geneva View Post
                abluebond , thanks for working on the case .

                1. What are some things in the case that people took advantage of or ran with that you as a case writer totally didn't expect?
                Honestly, there are too many remember. One of my favorite things about the no-affidavit defendants is that there are so many options. The ambiguity of the emojis combined with the ability to have Defendant say anything gave us some pretty entertaining explanations. This was, of course, by design, but I could have never thought of all the ways that could go. Some of the explanations for gun, bomb, knife, frying pan, emojis were great. Some were hilarious. I was made particularly uncomfortable listening to students describe all the ways those objects could be used in the bedroom.

                Originally posted by geneva View Post

                2. What are some things you wrote into the case that you are surprised no one noticed and/or took advantage of?
                I don't think there was anything no one took advantage of. But I think the prior conviction of Hendricks was criminally (haha) underused as an impeachment tool. A lot of Hendricks explained the gun receipt by saying that they were learning how to use a gun or went as far as saying that she never owned a gun. But Hendricks previously had a gun. We tried to make that more obvious with the ORCS changes, but it could have been done all year.

                Originally posted by geneva View Post

                3. Broadly speaking, what are some differences you feel in coaching in a year where you wrote the case vs a year where you don't participate in the writing
                It is way harder to coach in a year when I am on the Case Committee. First, being on the Committee takes up a fair amount of time. Time that I might otherwise spend coaching my team. But the bigger issue is that when I wrote the case, it is harder for me to see the case in creative ways. I mostly see the evidence as I imagined it when I was writing. It takes a lot of work to break out of that.

                Comment


                • #9
                  One of my favorite things about this case was the number of different possible P calls, and the amount of variety there was in the prosecutions approach.

                  You said that you thought some calls were a mistake - on the flip side, what were some of your favorite calls/theories for this case?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Real Mock Prodigy View Post
                    Were there any facts/witnesses/etc. that almost made it into the case but were cut at the last minute? Alternatively, were there any witnesses that were originally written differently?
                    The list of things that almost made it is so long that it could probably be used to create an entire second case. Oneof the big ones were that Smith originally also geolocated Hendricks using data stored in a Pokémon Go - like app called Critter Catch. About a week before the case was released, there was no gun in the case. The attacker used a knife and then the struggle with the extension cord ensued. Instead of a gun receipt a postcard from Carmen was in Charley Waters instrument case.

                    For ORCS, we considered having the new witness be another one of the food truck owners on Ellis Blvd. We briefly considered having it be Mickey, but that was too problematic. Mike Nelson and I thought of and wrote Mitchell while he was the AMTA Rep for the Columbus Regional. I'm glad we thought of that. Mitchell was much better than the food truck owner would have been, if I do say so myself.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      abluebond Very interesting. Thanks for answering, and for writing such a great case!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ali Thomas View Post
                        How do you balance the kinds of evidence included with a case (between story evidence, physical things, maps, ect)? Do you design evidence around particular evidentiary problems/ is there any weight given to trying to "teach" an area of evidentiary law? Do you have a favorite exhibit from this case?
                        Balance? What balance? This case had 41 Exhibits. We just said "let's have all the evidence!" But seriously, different cases will require different types of evidence. My personal preference is for exhibits you can either hold or blow up in trial. So things like the brick, the extension cord, photographs, and maps. But you need some evidence that will tie witnesses down more, and that tends to be text heavy documents. I will fully admit that State v. ABC had too many emails. But a case like that kind of requires them. I was much happier with the text messages in this case that looked pretty when enlarged and shown to a jury.

                        And yes, we absolutely try to teach different areas of evidence. I definitely liked having a non-felony conviction of the defendant in this case, for example. I tried hard to get an ancient documents hearsay exception into this case, but could make it fit. @CivilCaseCommittee, ball is in your court.

                        Originally posted by Ali Thomas View Post
                        What comes first in the case writing process? A story idea? Particular witnesses? A type of charge? Is the first draft the work of one person, that is then edited by committee or is it committee work the entire way? How do you approach balance during the initial drafting process before you have any data?
                        I'm certain this varies from year to year, and different Case Committee Chairs probably run their Committees differently. But my process tends to work like this: First, the committee talks about broad ideas we like in a case. Do we want to have a no-affidavit defendant? Do we want an affirmative defense? What kind of setting do we want? Things like that.

                        Then I ask people on the committee to submit proposals for a case idea. Those are usually a few pages long and describe the basic story, the law, the possible witness calls. It's not that helpful if someone just says "I want to do attempted murder with a love triangle!" That doesn't give us any idea what the case will be about. After we have the proposals, we vote on a topic.

                        Then we start drafting a "Master Facts" document. This year, that was about a 6 or 7 page narrative of everything we wanted in the case. The first draft of that is written by just a couple people, but then gets passed around to the rest of the committee.

                        Then I divvy up the witnesses and people draft things. We all edit.

                        That is a very condensed version. And it doesn't always go according to plan. But you get the gist.

                        Balance is a huge topic that I'll address in a separate post. It is very interesting, but very complicated. A lot of thought goes into balance.
                        Last edited by abluebond; March 30th, 2018, 01:02 PM. Reason: edited for typos

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Roger_Wilco View Post
                          I want to know how any and all of the names got picked for this case.

                          Where did Dylan Hendricks come from? Did the first draft just list Dylan as "D" for defendant, and then changed to Dylan later?
                          Why are there multiple witnesses who don't have first names? Did you just kinda give up on Nichols and Longfellow?
                          Is Bailey really gender neutral? It's the 83rd most popular girl's name in the US, but as a boy's name, it's ranked at a paltry 665th most popular. How big a disparity does there needs to be before a name is no longer considered gender neutral?
                          We just looked at list of gender neutral names and picked some. Stop trolling.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by DefenseMid View Post
                            One of my favorite things about this case was the number of different possible P calls, and the amount of variety there was in the prosecutions approach.

                            You said that you thought some calls were a mistake - on the flip side, what were some of your favorite calls/theories for this case?
                            I loved D Waters. I thought P Waters was underused not because P Waters was so great, but because you just shouldn't have let D have Waters.That became a more difficult decision when Mitchell was introduced, because the cross of P Waters was definitely juicier than the cross of P Mitchell.

                            I was intrigued by the P cases that went really heavy on the purple gloves. I am still not sure how great of an identifier they are. Obviously purple gloves aren't unheard of, but they aren't exactly common in every day life. It was interesting to see how different people reacted to the gloves as a distinguishing feature.

                            Last edited by abluebond; March 30th, 2018, 01:14 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              What was the theory behind defense Bailey? My team ran an "other people" theory that threw Carmen under the bus and when we had to call Bailey (who became a primary of ours at ORCS) we focused on the lines where Bailey sees Carmen's Tender (without the Paris and Jesse messages). Where did you see teams being able to effectively use defense Bailey without a ton of factual invention?

                              Were there built-in responses to commonly anticipable theories? Something I realized in the last round of ORCS was that the stipulation about the drugs being found on Kerry's person effectively kills the "this was a drug crime" argument if you can make the argument early and loudly enough.
                              Last edited by dcphlmock; March 30th, 2018, 01:17 PM.

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