Harvard Law School became the first-ever repeat-winner of the National Puerto Rico Trial Advocacy Competition.

Returning as defending champions, the Harvard Law School Trial Team advanced to the semi-finals with the highest score and remained undefeated throughout the competition, edging out Georgetown Law in the final round to win first place. The prestigious “invitation- only” competition was sponsored by the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico School of Law and the Puerto Rico Bar Association October 28-30.

The Harvard team was sponsored and coached through the auspices of the Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute. The team included 3L’s Mostafa Abdelkarim and Nneka Ukpai and 2L’s Anthony Hendricks and Ieshaah Murphy.

In addition to the team victory, Murphy and Ukpai together secured a total of 8 Perfect Score Awards and were recognized as Best Advocates in the competition.

In this year’s mock case, a recently paroled convict was charged with murder and armed robbery. The prosecution’s witnesses were two decorated police officers who testified that the defendant confessed multiple times to the murder. The defense witnesses were the defendant’s parents as alibi witnesses. The defense team also had the option to call the defendant. Hendricks and Abdelkarim represented the prosecution while Murphy and Ukpai represented the defendant.

“We are extremely grateful for the support of Dean Minow and the Criminal Justice Institute,” said Ukpai. “We competed against some very skilled adversaries but with the training, patience, and commitment of our coaches, Soffiyah Elijah and Dehlia Umunna, we triumphed to become the first school to ever win this competition twice.”

CJI Deputy Director Soffiyah Elijah and CJI Clinical Instructor Dehlia Umunna have coached other teams at the Law School to several other first place finishes in competitions in Massachusetts and New York.

The Criminal Justice Institute is the curriculum-based criminal law clinical program of Harvard Law School. Its mission is to educate students in becoming effective, ethical and zealous criminal defense lawyer-advocates through practice in representing indigent individuals involved in the Massachusetts court system as well as to research and present issues and debates about the criminal and juvenile justice systems in order to effect local and national reform.