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Kidnapping Trial of Founder of Alleged Cult Showcases Top High School Mock Trial Talent

March 28, 2008

Kidnapping Trial of Founder of Alleged Cult Showcases Top High School Mock Trial Talent

PHILADELPHIA (March 26, 2008) — A criminal trial involving the founder of the alleged cult organization Learning Eternally Extolled (LEX) who is charged with kidnapping an 18-year-old Norman High School graduate will begin March 28 in Harrisburg.

The founder, Jaden Sinclair, 31, of New Temple, Pa., is accused of abducting Kiran Taufique after a party and demanding $250,000 in ransom. Taufique became intensely involved in LEX in the months prior to her kidnapping, sources say, and will testify in Sinclair’s defense.

As ordered by the presiding judge, more than 100 students from 12 high schools throughout Pennsylvania will serve as the defense and prosecution. The reasoning behind the decision, the judge says, is simple enough: It’s to give America’s future lawyers practice before they actually practice law. The fictional case, as it turns out, is the centerpiece of the 24th annual Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Young Lawyers Division’s Statewide Mock Trial Competition.

The competition is co-sponsored by Drexel, whose College of Law and Pennoni Honors College hosted four high schools at a mock trial tournament held on campus March 15. Overbrook High School, which earlier won the Philadelphia regional tournament at Temple University, won and will compete in the PBA competition. Michael Exler, a Drexel vice president and general counsel, will serve on the jury.

Drexel is also the leadership sponsor of the 2010 National Mock Trial Competition.

The students represent the state’s elite teams. This year, 295 teams from 253 high schools competed at the district and regional levels of the PBA mock trial tournament — one of the largest in the nation.

“The students making it to the statewide competition represent ‘the best of the best’ among the hundreds of students participating in mock trial programs across Pennsylvania,” said William J. Higgins, chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. “The team that will ultimately claim the title of ‘2008 Mock Trial Champions’ will need to demonstrate strong communication and analytical skills and teamwork.”

During the competition, eight-member teams are given the opportunity to argue both sides of the case in an actual courtroom before a judge. The students, who portray lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants, are assisted by teacher coaches and lawyer advisers in preparing for competition. Volunteer lawyers and community leaders serve as jurors. The juries determine the winners in each trial based on the teams’ abilities to prepare their cases, present arguments and follow court rules.

The competition will be held March 28 from 3 to 6 p.m. The four winning teams in the quarterfinal round will advance to the semifinal round, which will begin March 29 at 8:30 a.m. The championship round will begin at 11 a.m., with J. Michael Eakin, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, presiding.

All trials will be held at the Dauphin County Courthouse, Front and Market streets in Harrisburg.

The winning team will compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, which will be held May 8 to 10 in Wilmington, Del.

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News media contact: Brian Rossiter, Drexel News Bureau 215-895-2705, 267-228-5599 (cell) or brian.rossiter@drexel.edu

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