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MHS Mock Trial Team 2013 is a Success

Medfield High School fielded a team in the 2013 statewide Mock Trial competition sponsored by the MBA.

 

The following was submitted by Mock Trial Team Coach Thom Morin. Want to see your activities featured on Patch? Click here to find out how.

Medfield High School fielded a team in the 2013 statewide Mock Trial competition sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association.

This was the first year (in recent years anyway) that a Medfield team participated in this competition, so it was a new extracurricular activity. Ten students from various grades, with only one senior, made up the team.

The team met with great success, finishing with a 1-2 record but performing strongly in each competition. 

A real highlight was winning the first trial against Foxboro High School.  It was not only a highlight of the season, it also proved the values of both hard work and dedication as well.  In speaking with the returning students, they have all indicated they plan on participating again next year. The goal is to build on this year’s success and increase the program’s membership and interest in the years to come.

History of the Team

At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Robert (Bob) Morrill, a local attorney and parent of three children in the Medfield school system, contacted the high school with the hope of starting a Medfield Mock Trial team.  He had been a participant of the program in high school and wanted to see if there was any interest at Medfield High School.

Kevin Murphy, a Social Studies teacher at the High School, and Bob met and agreed to build a team for the 2012-2013 school year. At the beginning of this year, they met again to begin working out the logistics while also approaching Thom Morin, a Social Studies teacher and lawyer, to join as an attorney coach. 

A weekly meeting time (Thursday afternoons) was agreed to so that the students would have enough time to prepare without overwhelming them. Thom’s presence provided us with twice the attorney coaching and benefited the team tremendously. Whereas Bob and Thom could focus on the legal issues, Kevin worked on the skills of public speaking, especially tone, delivery and presence. The meetings ran from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. One member was able to balance varsity basketball with the mock trial team while others balanced orchestra and drama, along with their academic responsibilities.  

We began meeting in late September. 

The first few weeks revolved around mastering the facts of the case, which was significant in its factual detail and legal issues.  A case involving first degree murder, the Massachusetts Bar Association did not hold back in drafting the case, so just getting comfortable with the charges, the witnesses and other materials took significant time and patience.  

The next hurdle we faced involved understanding the rules of evidence, civil and criminal procedure and trial advocacy while applying them to the facts of the case.  Especially difficult was drafting direct and cross examinations of witnesses.  Although we were a little shaky at first in this area, the students took it upon themselves to understand the technical rules of these exams.   By late January, the exams became the strength of the team.  Students were also assigned opening and closing statements, which are crucial to a trial’s success.  Again, the growth in both competence and confidence was really impressive. 

Had we won our region, we would have advanced to the next phase of competition in February/March.  There were three competitions (mock trials) held at the Brockton District Court House.  The trials took approximately 2 ½ hours each. 

Our 2013 Results:

  • Scrimmage with Dover-Sherborn High School
  • Wednesday January 23 against Foxboro High – Medfield defeats Foxboro 80-76
  • Thursday January 31 against Canton High – Canton defeats Medfield 93-88
  • Tuesday February 5 against Sharon High – Sharon defeats Medfield 95-85

Our record really does not reflect the progress this team made over the course of the year.  The students began with essentially no knowledge of how a trial works. But the team was successful because the students and coaches worked beyond the designated meeting times and demonstrated tremendous dedication.  This program is much more a team than a club. The students actively learn new skills and apply them on a weekly basis. 

Below is a list of areas I thought the students did especially well with over the course of the competition:

  • Everyone’s poise was fantastic. Despite objections, inexperience and nerves, everyone remained focused and professional. Although some students told me later they were nervous during competitions, it never showed. 
  • Team members were always well-dressed and professional.
  • Great job responding to objections on hearsay. Hearsay is a very difficult concept, especially when trying to get an objection overruled. The team really worked hard to understand this concept.  
  • Mastering the art of the direct and cross examinations. The progress the team made from when we first met in September was a product of hard work. Questions became more focused, presentations more articulate and nuanced. 

Overall, the Mock Trial team was a tremendous success. The students were enthusiastic throughout the process. They worked well together throughout the entire process, both in and out of school. All three coaches were impressed by the students’ commitment and dedication. The hope is to build up this program in the upcoming years. The faculty and administration were also very supportive throughout the competition phase as students had to be dismissed from class in order for us to make the trial start time of 2pm. 

Student members:

  • Lily Beardsley - 12 (grade)
  • Charlie Horan- 11
  • Nate Stein- 11
  • Drew Shea- 11
  • Olivia Gotham- 11
  • James Callahan- 11
  • Rob Passas- 10
  • David Baler -10
  • Elise Johnson- 10
  • Emma Haskell- 10

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