Zimmerman defense attorneys to speak at 10th anniversary of area trial competition

Two key members of the defense team that won acquittal for the defendant in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida will be in Buffalo on Nov. 7 as part of the 10th annual Buffalo Niagara Trial Competition, hosted by SUNY Buffalo Law School.

Attorneys Mark O’Mara, lead counsel for George Zimmerman, and Don West, a 1980 graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, will be part of a panel presentation titled “Success at Every Stage of Trial.” They will be joined by distinguished legal figures Terrence M. Connors ’71, of Connors and Vilardo LLP; Paul J. Cambria Jr., of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP; Erie County Court Judge Sheila A. DiTullio and Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross ’92.

The panel presentation will take place during a seminar from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Buffalo Convention Center. The audience will consist of top student advocates from 36 law schools who will be competing in the trial competition. The competition runs from Nov. 8 to 11. Local attorneys and judges, many of whom will be judging or evaluating the student trials, are also expected to attend the seminar.

“This is a great opportunity for aspiring and practicing trial lawyers to hear the secrets of success from those who have succeeded at the highest levels of the profession,” said Hon. Thomas P. Franczyk, an Erie County Court judge who co-directs the Law School’s Trial Advocacy program with attorney Chris O’Brien of The O’Brien Firm PC.

Judge Franczyk also serves as competition director and will moderate the seminar.

Following the morning session on Nov. 7, students will spend an hour in County Court with prominent local attorney Thomas H. Burton, who will talk to them about the art, science and psychology of successful trial tactics and strategy.

During the competition, which will be held in the courtrooms of Buffalo City Court, the student advocates will argue both sides of a fictional homicide case. Defendant JL King, a retired NBA star turned auto dealer, is charged with shooting his former schoolmate and business partner, Shecky Cashman, on King’s front lawn during an early morning altercation. The prosecution alleges that King executed Cashman after disarming him because he believed that Cashman had ripped off their business and slept with his wife. The defendant claims that the gun went off accidentally as he was defending himself and his wife from a masked robber who turned out to be Cashman.

Four preliminary rounds will be held Nov. 8 and 9, at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. The advancing 20 teams will be announced at an awards banquet Nov. 9 at the Buffalo Convention Center. The ensuing rounds will take place Nov. 10 at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., with semifinal and championship rounds on Nov. 11 at the same times.

In addition to SUNY Buffalo Law, the competing schools are: Catholic, Chicago Kent, Georgia State, Georgia, Pace, Pacific McGeorge,  Villanova, Widener-Delaware, St. Mary’s of Texas, Syracuse, Nova, Denver, Houston, Campbell, St. John’s, South Dakota, American, Fordham, Duquesne, Barry, Northwestern, Texas/Austin, Florida State, Creighton, DePaul, Seton Hall, Suffolk, Akron, Connecticut, Cooley, Faulkner, Florida Coastal, Loyola Chicago, Temple, and William and Mary.

Practicing attorneys who attend the seminar will be eligible to receive three hours of New York State CLE credit (2.5 hours in Skills and 0.5 hour in Ethics, transitional and non-transitional). Admission is $35, or $50 with lunch included. Checks payable to UB Foundation should be sent by Oct. 31 to Lisa Mueller, CLE Coordinator, SUNY Buffalo Law School, 410 O'Brian Hall, Buffalo, N.Y. 14260-0111.

SUNY Buffalo Law School is certified by the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board as an accredited provider of continuing legal education in the state. For information on the school’s hardship policy, contact Mueller at lmueller@buffalo.edu or 645-3176.