By Fanny Zhao ’19, Allana Hoyte ’19, and Hanna Boyko ’19
First round. Second round. Third round. Elimination.
Last month, the Mock Trial team was eliminated from the New York State mock tournament after three rounds. The mock trial competition works on a point system, so even if the team were to lose one trial that doesn’t mean that they’re completely out. They have elimination rounds and finals, just like many other sports.
According to http://www.nysba.org, every year since 1982, The New York State Bar Association organizes this competition where “high school students have the opportunity to gain first hand knowledge of civil/criminal law and courtroom procedures,” by receiving a court case and acting out the case in a real courtroom. This year’s case is in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Stella Shulmister ’18 said, “We get made up cases and we have people who play the part of the lawyer and witnesses who get questioned ike a real courtroom trial.”
“It’s like a courtroom drama,” said Zoë Sarullo ’18. “It’s like improv, but with rules.”
The case this year is People vs. Carson Conners. The case revolves around a high school student, Carson Conners, who was supposedly bullying another student in the hallways, according to his English teacher, Lauren Smith. However, Carson Conners believes he is being framed by his teacher because he wasn’t a good student. Since there was an upcoming English assessment, he believes his teacher framed him because if he scored low on the test, he/she would be demoted.
“This case wasn’t as interesting as the previous cases,” said Olivia Hudson ’18.
There are a total of six lawyers and six witnesses. The prosecution consists of three lawyers and three witnesses, and the defense also consists of three lawyers and three witnesses.
Sarullo does not believe one side, the prosecution or defense is better than the other.
“It really depends on the case,” said Sarullo.
All witnesses are required to learn their affidavit, a written statement sworn under oath and used as evidence. In the courtroom, they talk about the case from their point of view.
Lawyers question the witnesses in a direct and cross examination. In a direct examination, the lawyers for the prosecution and defense questions their own witnesses. In a cross examination, lawyers on the prosecution question the witnesses for the defense and lawyers for the defense questions witnesses for the prosecution.
“You have to always be on your feet and ready to respond,” said Hudson.
In previous years, the team went further in the competition. Last year, they got to the semi-finals and the year before that, the quarter finals.
“We went against some really well prepared schools,” said Sarullo. “We could start earlier in the year.”
Every year, the case comes out in late November/early December; the team starts preparing in January, and starts competing in February.
Mock Trial teaches students many skills.
“I like to see the kids grow intellectually,” said Mr. Eugene Resnick, the faculty advisor of the team. “They learn how to think on their feet and speak publicly with confidence. These are all important skills in life, not just in Mock Trial.”
Hudson said, “I definitely became more confident in my public speaking ability.”
“It makes me feel like a real lawyer,” said Shulmister. “We use public speaking skills and gain more knowledge of the law.”
The team meets two times a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in the courtroom to practice. A lawyer coach from Manhattan comes to the meetings to help students prepare for the competition. However, the team currently no longer meets.
“It’s fun and challenging,” said Sarullo. “There’s never a dull moment in Mock Trial.”
There are currently around 15 members on the team. According to Sarullo, the team will be losing a lot of seniors to year and encourages students to join.
“It’s a good introduction to law if you’re a little interested in it,” said Sarullo, “and it’s a good way to make friends.”
“Students should be committed to the team and be willing to go out of their comfort zone,” said Hudson.
Next year, there will be tryouts to join the team. Any students interested in joining the Mock Trial team should speak with Mr. Resnick.