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Student newspaper of Strath Haven High School

Panther Press

Student newspaper of Strath Haven High School

Panther Press

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Mock Trial team wins at Delaware County Courthouse

Students develop skills and find community in the understated club.
Matthew Chen ’23
The Strath Haven Mock Trial team stands outside the Delaware County Courthouse. Both the defense and plaintiff teams won their trials and will move on to the next round in the tournament.

Have you witnessed a student deliver a closing argument at a trial? Raise and defend an objection using the Rules of Evidence? Assume the role of a fictional character and answer cross-examination questions on a whim? 

Composed of 20 members, the Strath Haven Mock Trial team hones all of these skills during their practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

Mock Trial is broken into three roles: attorneys, witnesses, and timekeepers. 

Senior captain Megan Noon is an attorney who has competed on the mock trial team since her freshman year. She’s familiar with all of Mock Trial’s intricacies—from compiling a case to arguing an objection using the Rules of Evidence. 

“In the beginning, [objections] can be really nerve racking for people,” Noon said. “I know I myself, as an attorney, from freshman year to senior year, still get nervous answering objections, because you have to think on your feet and you can’t prepare for it. But it honestly teaches you great skills with thinking on your feet, and learning to think on the fly.”  

Mock Trial practices are critical for the team’s success. 

“We spend practices looking at each direct, finding what’s good, what’s bad, what’s ugly for us,” she said. “[We] work as a team. I think that one of the most important parts about Mock Trial is that you’re always working with someone else. [Mock Trial] teaches you how to be compatible with someone you might not normally interact with.” 

When each detail literally counts—performances are scored individually based on quality of presentation—mock trial competitors need to be prepared to receive feedback from their peers and coaches in order to improve. 

“Mock Trial has really hardened my shell,” Noon said.  “I’ve learned to take criticism and listen to it, and not just think that my way is the right way.”

Senior attorney Luke DiBonaventura agrees.

“We are all one team,” he said. “We may compete against each other in practice, but when it actually comes to the official competition, we need everyone to succeed.” 

Sophomore Zikuan Guo joined Mock Trial this year and took on the witness role. She said that she’s grateful for the relaxed atmosphere that the members create at meetings. 

“How the people choose to act in a community or environment is crucial to how the environment feels to everyone else,” she said. “If the people in mock trial were completely different, like if they were complete jerks or something, I would not want to come. But I’m grateful to the members in Mock Trial that they’re really nice people. It makes me want to come to Mock Trial.”

From Feb. 6 to 7, the Strath Haven mock trial team competed at their annual courthouse competition at the Delaware County Courthouse in Media. 

Prior to the event, Guo expressed her excitement for competing at her first competition. 

“I’m excited to be able to stare at each of the jurors’ eyes, because that’s basically one of the strategies of how you respond to a group of people,” she said. 

On Feb. 7, the defense team, represented by attorneys Megan Noon, junior Iris Cheng, and freshman Lexi Benzing as well as witnesses senior Adelaide Orsetti, senior Atticus Clow-McLaughlin, and junior Quinn Kuzemka arrived at the courthouse dressed in courtroom attire. 

The environment simulated a real courtroom experience: a professional judge presided over the trial, three professional lawyers served as the jury, and each competitor and spectator was required to pass through security. To minimize bias, neither the judge, jury, or opposing teams were aware of the high schools that were being represented. 

From the judge’s call to order to the giving of the closing arguments, the trial took nearly two hours to complete. 

At the end of the trial, per mock trial tradition, each team recognized two individuals in the opposition for outstanding performances. 

On the Strath Haven side, “Best Witness” was awarded to senior Adelaide Orsetti for her portrayal of the character Chris Empesto. “Best Advocate” was awarded to freshmen Lexi Benzing for her performance as an attorney.  

The benefits of participating in Mock Trial are abundant, Noon said. Not only has she gained public speaking skills but she has also gained experience for her professional career. However, she stressed that mock trial requires hard work.  

“I think [mock trial] takes someone who really wants to gain experience and they’re committed to learning something,” she said. “This isn’t just a club for you to go and hang out with your friends and goof around. You have to put in the work.”

According to DiBonaventura, Mock Trial can appeal to many types of people because of the different roles that can be portrayed. 

“You can have people who are more into theater acting who partake in Mock Trial to play witness roles,” he said. “And you could also have more people who are really into reading rules and understanding the mechanics of the law taking up attorney positions.”

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About the Contributor
Matthew Chen '23
Matthew Chen '23, Editor-in-Chief
Outside of reporting and photographing for the Panther Press, Matthew Chen enjoys learning lanugages, cutting hair, and guessing your astrological sign.
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