Chicago-Kent Student Wins “Best Advocate” title in National “Battle of the Experts” Competition

During a national trial advocacy “battle of the experts” team competition, a Chicago-Kent student was dubbed the best advocate of the bout.

Cole Gunter ’23 took the title at the Drexel Battle of the Experts, hosted by the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law in September. Sixteen teams competed this year.

“Admittedly, I loved it. I love the competition, really just love being in the courtroom,” says Gunter. “Hopefully I can do as many competitions as possible through the rest of law school because it was so much fun.”

The competition centered on a fictional federal court case that reminded some students of the movie “Goodfellas,” Gunter notes.

According to the facts of the case, a mobster of some standing was killed after an altercation at a bar. But by whom?

Police later arrested a young man on an unrelated charge: possession of a large amount of heroin. The man confessed to being an accomplice in the murder; he led police to where the body was buried, along with a knife he said was used as the murder weapon. He then accused a second man of wielding it.

Prosecutors used the man they’d arrested as a witness, and charged the second man with murder.

Gunter was charged with defending the accused. Per the competition’s namesake, the case included a pair of experts—one each for the prosecution and defense. The defense produced an expert on mafia-related crimes, while the prosecution used a police officer.

In addition to questioning both witnesses, Gunter had to cross-examine the officer.

It helped that the evidence was circumstantial, Gunter says.

“There were no fingerprints, no DNA on the knife. The defendant's cell phone was partially turned off through the night,” Gunter says. While his client had once been a mobster, he had completed his jail time and now was rehabilitated, Gunther argued. Indeed, there was no evidence showing his client engaging in mob activity following his release.

Gunter noted that the prosecution had secured a knife block from the home of his client’s mother; the block contained knives similar to the one found with the body.

But it was a common brand, Gunter argued; in one bout, he successfully suppressed the fact that the block had been found at the mother’s home.

“They just didn’t present any real evidence,” Gunter says.

During the battle’s four preliminary rounds, Gunter’s team argued twice for the prosecution and twice for defense; Gunter was only an advocate during the defense rounds; when his team argued for the prosecution, he had to play one of the opposing team’s witnesses.

But both times Gunter argued, he won—against the St. Mary’s University School of Law and University of California Berkeley School of Law. The winning streak was enough to earn him the “best advocate” title.

The team lost against Temple University Beasley School of Law and Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law, and did not advance past the initial rounds.

Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, Gunter received a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Illinois Chicago. He has worked as a law clerk at Acuna Law Offices in Chicago and the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, and is currently working as a clerk at Smith Amundsen LLC.

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