Thursday, March 3, 2011
Marshall Academy Mock Trial places fourth in state competition
Both Marshall Academy teams travelled to the statewide Mississippi High School Mock Trial competition February 25 and 26, where Team 2 took fourth place in the state overall, receiving one of only six coveted gavel awards.
This is only the third year Marshall has participated in the Mock Trial program. Marshall teacher Sarah Miller Taylor served again as team sponsor. Phillip Knecht of Holly Springs and Tony Farese of Ashland returned as attorney coaches.
Mock Trial serves as a way for students to participate in a real courtroom environment as if they were real attorneys, and witnesses. Participants are able to cross-examine witnesses, direct-examine witnesses and perform opening and closing arguments.
Taking part in mock trial competitions provides students with the understanding of the Mississippi judicial system, improving basic life skills, along with communication and cooperation among students, teachers and attorneys from the community, according to the Young Lawyers Division of the Mississippi Bar Association.
Marshall Academy participated with two teams this year. Team 2, which placed fourth in the state competition, consisted of senior Joey Brock and juniors Michael and Katherine Farese, Davis Kelly, Brittany Stewart, Ben Breithaupt, Elgin Lafever and Kirby Jones. Team 1 consisted of seniors Danielle Stanley, Anne Greer, Claire Liddy, Drew Rappa and Kasey Shaw, juniors Ashika Bhakta and Tyler Cook, sophomore Allyson Viger and freshman Jasmine Milan.
Both teams were able to gain one of only six spots representing the north half of the state to advance to the statewide competition in Jackson. Other district competitions were held in Jackson and the Gulf Coast. Overall, only 20 teams could advance to the statewide competition held at the Hinds County Courthouse in Jackson.
Both teams travelled to Jackson, which was made possible by donations from the community and funds raised by Mock Trial parents in a bake sale at the Bank of Holly Springs.
“We only had a couple of weeks between competitions to get the money together,” Taylor said. “The parents have been incredibly supportive, as they always are of efforts at MA. I cannot thank them enough for what they have done to help these kids and let them know that their hard work is appreciated.”
Attorney coach Phillip Knecht said, “Team 1 put up a heck of a fight. The kids did a fantastic job and won two of the four matches. The two matches we lost were extremely close and we came within just a few points of winning those. If there was a seventh gavel, I feel sure they would be holding it now.”
This year, the case was a murder trial involving the death of Sunny Beach, allegedly locked in the freezer of her own restaurant by her business partner, defendant Ima Freeman.
“For the first time that I can remember, and I did this in high school, the case was a murder trial,” Taylor said. “We had mobsters and jailhouse snitches as witnesses, as well as corrupt police and the murderer’s name spelled out in bacon in the evidence files. It was a really fun case and we had a great time preparing for competition this year.”
“We had some really long days of competing and we were possibly the smallest school in attendance,” said attorney coach Phillip Knecht, who is also a member of the Young Lawyers Division. “The kids have worked so hard and they did an amazing job of representing their school, as well as their entire district.”
The teams have been preparing for competition since September.
“The team did really well this year because they put a lot of work into it,” Taylor said. “We have been practicing two and three times a week for months. Our attorney coaches, Mr. Farese and Mr. Knecht, have done an amazing job with the kids and have put in an extraordinary amount of their own time in this. It paid off. Next year, all juniors will come back and I have a feeling they’ll be unstoppable.”
Farese, also a board member at the school, was proud of his team members.
“I think the success of this team is a direct result of the leadership of our teacher sponsor Sarah Taylor and the leadership she provides them every day at Marshall Academy,” he said. “Phillip Knecht and I had the privilege of being attorney coaches and it was truly our pleasure to get to work with these talented kids. This was a very rewarding experience and it’s something these kids should be very proud of. It is a great accomplishment for them as well as for Marshall Academy.”
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