Ever want to know what it's like to be in a court setting with lawyers and judges? Mock Trial may be the club for you. For the past 20 years, the Jamesville-DeWitt High School’s Mock Trial team has given students the opportunity to experience for those who are hopeful for becoming a lawyer one day. Mock Trial is a statewide high school competition where schools send teams of six-three attorneys and three witnesses- to a fictitious trial.
The 2015-2016 J-DHS Mock Trial team is comprised of juniors Jake Harron, Jaspreet Kaur, Elena Haarer, Ben Wormuth, Michelle Pan, Claire Rigney, and Lauren Nandal and sophomores Ailin Liebler-Bendix, Jo Womack, Michale Shuler along with freshman Cassie Murphy.
The Mock Trial team’s process begins with a case being sent to them by the State Mock Trial board. The team then prepares either a defense or a prosecution for the case depending on which part they were assigned. They meet every Saturday for three hours with Mock Trial team co-ordinator Leo Brown and lawyer/adviser Bonnie Levy. After a while to prepare, the team heads to their competition and gets judged on how well their attorneys and witnesses perform. They compete against a lot of schools in the county such as Cazenovia, Fayetteville-Manlius, and Skaneateles.
During the trials, the team members can either be a prosecution lawyer or a defense attorney. Pan says that she prefers to be a prosecution lawyer because she likes questioning witnesses through interrogation. Harron also likes being a prosecution lawyer because he likes the aggressiveness that comes with being part of the prosecution. However, Haarer enjoys being a defense attorney because she likes to help people.
Students get involved in Mock Trial for many different reasons. Many students join because they have hopes of one day becoming a lawyer. Haarer believes that she could possibly become a lawyer, but she thinks Mock Trial helps her in other areas as a student and as a person. “It really helps people become familiar with the justice system,” says Haarer. Pan agrees with Haarer; “(Mock Trial) helps public speaking and leadership skills,” she says. “It’s nice to be able to learn and debate with people,” says Harron who joined Mock Trial because he has an interest in a profession in law.
The team competes in several trials before they go to the county tournament. Three years ago the team was successful enough to venture all the way to states. They made the county finals two years ago, and last year they made it to the second round of the county tournament. Mr. Brown describes this season as a “rebuilding year,” since the team finished with a record of 1-2 and a first round county playoff loss. Haarer does not believe the judging on the team’s performance in the playoffs was fair, but she does think the team worked hard, prepared well and had a lot of fun. Harron is proud of the team saying “I think we made a lot of progress from the beginning to the end of the season.” Rigney shared her optimism by saying “hopefully we're better next year.”