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Final Thoughts on Petrillo v. Martini and Peony Estates?

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Final Thoughts on Petrillo v. Martini and Peony Estates? Empty Final Thoughts on Petrillo v. Martini and Peony Estates?

Tue Mar 23, 2021 10:49 pm
With the last rounds of this year's case wrapped up, I figured we could discuss our final thoughts on Estate of Petrillo v. Martini and Peony Estates!

Was it better or worse than last year's case? Which is the better charge, Battery or Negligence Per Se? What was the craziest case theory you saw all year? Whatever you want to discuss about this case this is the thread for it!

I personally couldn't stand battery by the end of the year. I get why it was the more popular charge, I just hated how similar every Plaintiff theory was. It seemed like every team just recited all of the horrible Harper quotes and called it a day to reach their smaller burden. Compared to last year where Prosecution teams had several angles to go at with the life insurance motive vs the defendant's anger problems. Battery really just felt like worse murder, without the stuff that makes a whodunnit murder case like last year fun (stuff like a more in depth timeline, comparing alibis, forensics, plausible alt suspects, etc.) In general I thought this case was a downgrade compared to last year and Kosack from two years ago. But I'm curious what you all think.

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Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:55 am
I personally couldn't stand battery by the end of the year. I get why it was the more popular charge, I just hated how similar every Plaintiff theory was. It seemed like every team just recited all of the horrible Harper quotes and called it a day to reach their smaller burden.

Completely agree on this point. With Negligence, there were a few creative angles of attack, but not many compared to previous years. Defense definitely had the market cornered on creativity this year. We saw third party culpability theories for Drew, Angel, Lonnie, and Danny (as well as a number of Lonnie/Danny combo theories). Defense also had the option of running a negligence-based theory against battery, as well as choosing from the list of medical explanations in Cannon's report for either charge (although we only ever saw alcohol poisoning.)

I wish there had been a lot more diversity in the witness statements. The damning defendant quotes got very repetitive. Nothing wrong with damning quotes, but I wish that they were more interesting rather than just generic "I want to kill Genesis." Perhaps if some of the quotes pointed to contradicting theories, or there was other evidence that pointed to a wider range of theories. It seems like there was a lot of evidence to choose from, but all of it really pointed toward the same relatively short list of theories (especially for plaintiff!)

I'm honestly not a big fan of the "dual charge" model that AMTA has used for the past two years. It makes things harder on defense, but not in a way that's fun or interesting. It just arbitrarily forces Defense to prepare a relatively larger amount of material, but once you know the charge, things are pretty predictable. It's more fun when there's one charge, but a lot of diversity in the facts so that teams can come up with interesting and creative theories. That way the difficulty in responding comes from having to adapt in-round to a novel theory, rather than simply being forced to pre-write and memorize a larger amount of material.

My absolute favorite part of this case was the health inspector. Such a wide range of objections to make with that character. I felt like this had the most diverse array of testimony, because you could choose to focus the attention in a variety of places. I love it when AMTA gives us an expert who is dubiously qualified to make the conclusion we actually want them to make. At first AMTA's lack of clarity on some topics with this witness frustrated me, but I eventually came to cherish it. It made me a little sad when they made the inspector less ambiguous in caselaw pre-ORCS.

I understand that AMTA chose to make lots of exhibits pre-admitted due to the online format, but it was a little frustrating. Objections over exhibits can often be some of the most fun and interesting objections.

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Wed Mar 24, 2021 12:05 pm
I think this was, overall, a fairly solid case. I actually like the dual call system, and here I think it worked pretty well, especially towards the end of the season once the confusion about arguing negligence against battery was cleared up. I also think that negligence was the most fun because, as talked about above, it had by far the most variety in terms of theme/theory.

I also agree that the health inspector was one of the best witnesses, and I think the reason was that there was so much material in his report that it forced teams to really sift through it to pick and choose one of many things the inspector could say that would be effective. It also lent itself well, I think, to creative demonstratives which were always a strength in the online format.

Separately, it could be my faulty memory, but I understand that the Kane case law was introduced in this case. I think it was a disaster. As the season wore on Kane objections became more and more common, and frankly, less and less effective. The case itself is, in my opinion, not effective and preventing what it tries to prevent, and instead, teams used it in lieu of an impeachment which I found to increase the judges frustration with judging mock trial; suddenly the teams are objecting and their basis for an objection is that the expert said something that is not in the case packet. Judges in judges meetings are told that teams cannot object to "improper inventions" so it led to a ton of confusion. I'd love to hear from someone who feels differently, but I think it has to go.


Last edited by happygolucky on Wed Mar 24, 2021 2:30 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Wed Mar 24, 2021 1:48 pm
The retrospect of this case is completely different if we're talking about battery or neg. For battery, I think the strength lied with the defense because there were so many theories you could run and there wasn't one guaranteed witness (harper wasn't called as often as a defendant usually is and plenty of teams didn't call one of Lewis, Blaire, Cannon) and there were plenty of options for plaintiff to call also so it made each round feel different witness wise. I've seen Soto, Lonnie, Kwon vs. Harper, Blaire, Cannon as much as I saw Rodriguez, Arnold, Kwon vs. Lewis, Francazio, Harper (or really any combo). Case wise, plaintiff battery was usually the same but defense was always different which i loved. Negligence was more interesting from a plaintiff theory perspective because the point of contamination could have been a few different things and that was always interesting, but witness wise, it was the same witnesses in literally every trial. It was Riley and Kwon for P (usually with Soto or Arnold, occasionally Lonnie) and Lewis, Blaire, Cannon with an alc theory for D. The occasional danny did it with danny instead of Blaire or Cannon but the witness variety for neg was really lacking to the point where one weekend I watched the exact same trial 3/4 rounds. I'd say that's not super abnormal having the same exact case in 3/4 or 4/4 rounds (think how many Chesney/Doos/Quincy vs. Ryder/Lopez/Lee's there were last year) but this year felt refreshing that there was so much witness call variety. In comparison to previous cases, I'd say this was towards the top but not the very top. I liked this more than last year as by the end of last year it felt like every trial was the same. Kosack was the worst. I probably liked Hendricks more than this even though there was also some problems with witness call. I think my overall takeaway is if they did this case with only neg for this year and gave more info with that or only battery for next year's criminal case and gave a few more theories for that then I think this case would have been much better.
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Wed Mar 24, 2021 2:50 pm
I think this was a solid case overall. I think others have identified the main problems the case, but one thing I really appreciated was the options for character witnesses. While I would have preferred a more diverse set of fact patterns, I think there were a lot of really fun opportunities for good characters in this year's case.

I do want to add that I was pleased to see Kane Software added, and I hope it's kept going forward. I think AMTA should make it a part of the judge presentation, and hopefully that can help solve some of the issues with actual implementation. But I really think that inventions are increasingly getting out of hand in AMTA, and I welcome efforts to reign them in.

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Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:12 pm
My primary issue with this case was with the inherent contradiction in the battery summary judgment pretrial order. I (politely) argued about this with an unnamed member of the case committee and it didn't get changed, but the battery pretrial order made no sense when trying to allow a negligence defense to battery. If summary judgment was granted for Peony Estates, it means there's no dispute of material fact that Peony Estates did not violate 12-100. Put another way, a previous judge already ruled that Peony Estates stored and used their pesticides properly, because they didn't violate 12-100 and thus didn't violate the sections of 12-100 that require proper storage and usage of pesticides. Tacking on one more sentence to make that evidence admissible doesn't solve the contradiction and it makes no sense why it was never fixed. To be clear, I had no issue with teams running a negligence defense to battery, as the case committee clearly intended that to be a viable option. But it makes no sense to simultaneously say "a previous judge has ruled Peony Estates stored and used their pesticides properly" and also say "feel free to introduce evidence that Peony Estates did not store and/or use their pesticides properly." That frustrated me the entire season and I don't know why it was left the way it was.

Aside from that, I think this was a decent case. I think Kane Software is a good idea but was poorly executed this year and I'd like to see AMTA solicit feedback from the community on how it can be improved. When the underlying motion was passed at the board meeting last year I thought experts would have disclosure statements that spelled out their specific conclusions so teams could rely on that document to craft expert directs and make objections. The way it was implemented seemed to have a lot of flaws that need ironing out. I'm not sure if it's the time constraints, the way Martini was written, or other factors, but I definitely felt like creativity was down this year. We went to 15+ invites and several AMTA tournaments and I never really saw a defense theory I thought was especially innovative or unique. Plenty of them were excellent and well-executed, but I just felt like by the end of the year we could safely predict that 90% of trials were either alcohol poisoning defenses or negligence defenses.

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Wed Mar 24, 2021 3:28 pm
I absolutely agree about the pre trial order, and I always hated negligence as a defense to battery theories for that reason. It felt totally unrealistic given that earlier summary judgement. As for creative defense theories, I was really interested to see a defense team really go for it and blame Kwon, and argue that Genesis died because they were allergic to the pesticide antidote. I thought it could be really fun and interesting. I only saw one team (ASU) run it, and they did an excellent job of it.
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Wed Mar 24, 2021 4:11 pm
I believe the case change highlighted how negligence as a defense to battery was certainly allowed, hell even encouraged post-change. It created at least one ongoing, fun objection battle between sides that really showcased legal prowess and adaptability to judge's rulings. I think it was a high-risk, high-reward strategy but certainly the most effective one I saw as a defense.

As for the two charges, I think this year's workload was only feasible because of the online nature of competition, which I'm sure is how AMTA intended it to be. With little overlap between the charges (all about hatred for one and all about science for the other) defenses seemed to carry a truly unfair double duty this year. I hope that AMTA can go back to having charges that overlap more, like manslaughter and murder from the Ryder case, where teams don't need to prepare 7 different witnesses for one side. I also thought the P-P call for battery was a little excessive, creating more work for defense.

I thought far too many teams called Austin for all the damning evidence in their affidavit. Any Austin that tries to argue they did follow all protocol to a T lost credibility as soon as they took the stand, IMO. They were also the only witness who enters the whole "I didn't know if those bad grapes were thrown out" bit, doubling plaintiff's possible direct and proximate cause. Something I think most Austins were afraid to do for looming threat of impeachments was discuss the argument that Cara wine would have been grown at the top of the hill and therefore the bottom grapes wouldn't be used... if AMTA had put anything about Austin's knowledge that the cara was expensive it could have been a worthy call to get more into the actual winemaking process.

I would have liked to get a timeline on when the cara grapes were grown or when each stage of production could have been so teams could argue that they weren't in the rooms with contamination at the right place/time.
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Wed Mar 24, 2021 4:33 pm
I disagree that the pretrial order was contradictory to the summary judgement. The summary judgment ruled that Peony Estates did not violate Midlands Building Code Section 12-100. It did not, however, say that pesticides did not get into the wine because of Peony Estates' practices. There's nothing that says - or even assumes - that the Building Code is effective against preventing pesticide contamination. Neg-against-battery teams only had to prove CAUSATION, not violation of any statute. By completely ignoring the building code in their cases, I think those teams were able to stay within the bounds of both the pretrial order and the summary judgement.

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Wed Mar 24, 2021 8:15 pm
I have a lot of respect for the case committee and the work that they do. It's easy to criticize a case after the fact, but the truth is, it's impossible to really predict how these cases will play out in the actual season. I think that most criticisms people offered are valid. If I had any other critiques to offer, it would be the overabundance of swing witnesses in most of the recent mock trial cases. It feels as though we often receive four swings because it gives teams more options on paper. The reality is that these swings are rarely written to be balanced, and often are just worth calling on one side or the other. That was especially felt this year, with all the swings up until DJ being pretty bad for the defense regardless of claim. Funnily enough, Angel felt more like a swing than the actual swings, but for some reason was side-constrained to the Plaintiff. In general, we should stop having so many swings and just focus on having witnesses that feel like they can contribute something to the case. Having witnesses that see different events or can talk about different stages of wine production, for example, could have been interesting and potentially opened up more case theories for P or D.

Personally, State v. Ryder was my favorite case to run, both on prosecution and defense. I feel as though even if calls weren't as diverse as maybe in Petrillo, it felt much more grounded in reality. The facts of Ryder felt like an actual real life case, and it was surprisingly balanced for a criminal case. Also, this is probably because I was on a team running battery, but there never seemed to be any really fun objections like the co-conspirator arguments from the Hendricks case or even something like arguing the admissibility of the Alex Grace note from MTS.

I would say the one aspect of Petrillo that has to be acknowledged is that it was entirely virtual. Assuming the covid vaccines become widely available over the summer, I would imagine we'll be back to in-person tournaments by Fall. If so, Petrillo will be the only AMTA case to be entirely online for the full competitive season. While the case wouldn't really be all that different in person, the experience of going online for mock trial made running this entirely unique from every other AMTA season for better and for worse. In my own experience, the quality of teams dropped pretty significantly for the first part of the season, my own team included. I say this largely because I think trying to adapt to the online format made running this case much harder than it would have likely been in person. For that reason, experiences with this case may have felt worse than other years because of the change in format rather than because of there merits of the case.

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Wed Mar 24, 2021 8:27 pm
swampcreature wrote:I disagree that the pretrial order was contradictory to the summary judgement. The summary judgment ruled that Peony Estates did not violate Midlands Building Code Section 12-100. It did not, however, say that pesticides did not get into the wine because of Peony Estates' practices. There's nothing that says - or even assumes - that the Building Code is effective against preventing pesticide contamination. Neg-against-battery teams only had to prove CAUSATION, not violation of any statute. By completely ignoring the building code in their cases, I think those teams were able to stay within the bounds of both the pretrial order and the summary judgement.

I agree with this.  Negligence per se is a specific claim regarding the violation of a statute.  Just because they did not violate the statute does not mean their negligence did not contaminate the wine.

I thought the whole negligence to battery as a defense was too powerful and was one of the main reasons my team ran NPS.  Cannon cross becomes nearly useless when a team runs this as a defense and having a Harper react to an Austin discussing his own negligence is so good.  Maybe I didn't put enough thought into it, but I am not really sure how you could run an effective battery case against the defense. I also agree with the earlier comment that battery became a bit stale because the entire case was basically quoting ridiculous things Harper said.  The premise of the battery claim was also kind of ridiculous IMO.  If Harper really wanted to kill Genesis, why do it at a huge public event where anyone else could drink the wine.  And even if the plan goes well and nobody else drinks the wine, you still completely kill the reputation of your winery...
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Thu Apr 01, 2021 11:21 pm
honestly surprised at how positive the opinion seems to be on this case. I've been doing amta since hendricks and to me this was by far the most boring case of the four. Negligence especially was just a pain to sit through round after round. The negligence case had nothing exciting about it and left the defense with very few viable theories (the x witness did it theories had so little support without being able to call the defendant) especially with how amta continues to make the defense expert weaker each year. At the end of the case, defense really could not argue that peony estates did not mess up the rules in some way and the call of kwon + the health inspector was almost like having two expert witnesses which again led to boring trials imo. Battery was more dramatic at least, but as a previous comment pointed out, it relied to heavily on quotes with little other evidence. Martini was also such a laughably cartoonish villain which made it feel unrealistic. The fact that the chimp attack case felt more grounded in reality than the battery case is funny. Maybe I feel this way because this was the first zoom case but I would easily put hendricks, grace, and ryder above petrillo.
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