Thursday, February 12, 2009
Mock Trial Team represents MA well
By KATHERINE FARESE
On Jan. 24, Marshall Academy’s first-ever Mock Trial Team traveled to Oxford to compete in the regional competition sponsored by the Mississippi Bar Association.
The competition featured schools, both public and private, ranging from areas all over North Mississippi, including Oxford High School, Lafayette High School, North Delta Academy, Mississippi School for Math and Science and numerous others.
The preparation for the occasion took a great deal of time, hard work and effort from participating students. Each student “attorney” had to memorize questions for each of the six witnesses in the fictional case, deliver effective opening statements and closing arguments to a panel of three judges, memorize applicable objections, know the witness statements to impeach witnesses if declination occurs and be prepared to respond appropriately to whatever the judges may ask.
Student witnesses had to know their statements as well as if they were actually experiencing the trial and believably answer questions from either side without the use of notes.
This event not only took the time and effort of students, most of whom are involved in other extracurricular activities, but also the time of one teacher and three lawyers. Sarah Miller served as the teacher coach, who drilled the team from the beginning, along with attorneys Phillip Knecht, Anthony Farese and Collier Carlton. These attorneys took time out of their work schedules to instruct the team on proper courtroom manner and behavior in weekly practices that sometimes ran over three hours.
“The Mock Trial competition is a great way to introduce students to the judicial process,” said Farese. “The students actually became the lawyers in this competition and were prepared to bring their case to trial. We (attorneys) gave a crash course in law and rules of evidence. We instructed the students how to construct their opening statements, direct examinations of their witnesses, cross examinations of opponents’ witnesses and closing arguments for the case. This was a rewarding experience that hopefully taught this group of students what hard work can achieve.”
The mock trial situation occurs much like a regular trial. A prosecution and a defense prepare for the same case before “court.” After opening statements, witnesses are called from each side and questioned by attorneys from both sides. Evidence is presented, motions and objections are made and closing arguments are given.
At the conclusion of the trial, a panel of judges scores the performance of each member and the team as a whole. After scoring, prosecution or defense is chosen to determine the best overall presentation. Awards are also distributed to the Most Effective Attorneys and Most Effective Witnesses.
From Marshall Academy Team 1, freshman Katherine Farese received both Most Effective Attorney awards for prosecution and defense, while freshman Ashika Bhakta and junior Dixon Hewlett each won Most Effective Witness. From Team 2, senior team captain Bronson Pharr received both Most Effective Attorney awards, and senior Emma Burleson took home both Most Effective Witness awards.
Although the Marshall Academy teams received high marks and praise from area attorneys and opposing coaches, they did not advance to the statewide competition.
Freshman Brittany Stewart says, “I was extremely disappointed that we did not advance to the state competition, but we had a fun time and applied our knowledge to the fullest. I would recommend other students to join future Mock Trial Teams at Marshall Academy.”
Miller feels that the team will become a future institution at Marshall Academy. She also believes that the experience, with its mixture of competition and academics, is something that will benefit the school, as well as individual participants.
“This is something that the students at Marshall Academy can really excel at and use later in life. Their hard work paid off, whether they advanced in the competition or not. Seeing them compete was one of the proudest days of my life. They represented our school so well.”
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