Mock Trial

Travesty by Travis Williamson

This week's is just an update on where by blog posts have been the past few weeks, and to let everyone know that I will be back writing soon again. High school extra extracurriculars and clubs are very important to me and I am very lucky to be involved in a lot of may different programs. However, none of the things I do at school bring me as much enjoyment as Mock Trial. This is a brief summary of this year's competition I wrote for my school's post.

At the start of a much anticipated spring break, while many students left Florida to head off to fancy ski hot spots or exotic tropical getaways, eight students went to Orlando to represent CSN in the Mock Trial State Competition for the first time in nine years. Mock Trial is a nationwide competition in which students take on the roll of either attorneys or witnesses and learn every in-and-out of a case that is provided for them. Student attorneys memorize countless pages of case law, affidavits, and statues while witnesses memorize every bit of their sworn statements and work with their attorneys in order to come up with questions to both aid their side of the case and defend themselves on cross examinations.

This year CSN’s Mock Trial team began practicing back in September before the case to be used for the 2010 season was even released, using a case from senior Sacha Samotin’s freshman year. As soon as the 2010 case was released, the team immediately began forming their presentation of State of Florida v. Chris Byrd. The team practiced for two hours two times a week at first, but in the months leading up to the trial one could find the mock trial team afterschool in Mr. Utz’s room for three hours every night. The team's greatest asset was Mr. Brad Donnelly, Esq. Mr. Donnelly is a practicing attorney who gives up hours of his time in order to help the team prepare and leads the team to competitions to watch them preform and help them along the way. Without the help of Mr. Donnelly, the team would certainly fall flat on their face. After months of preparation, the first hurdle on the way to States was the county level competition held at the Collier County courthouse. Our local first level of competition is one of the largest in the state, consisting of ten to fourteen teams. Here students are judged by real attorneys, acting as juror, and real judges acting as, well, the judge. CSN advanced to the final round where they met their long time rival, Palmetto Ridge. A victory here opened up the door to the second hurdle, the 20th Judicial Circuit competition, with three teams from their respective county competitions.

For the past nine years, no team from CSN has managed to make it past the circuit competition. The last team to advance that far went on not only to win states, but place sixth in nationals. Two notable names among that team nine years ago are PJ Scheiner, who now works as a trial attorney for Bruce L. Scheiner, and Lindsay Bennett, who is the sister of Sasha Bennett who was a member of this year’s team. Spectacularly, CSN managed to, again, trump the competition. Notably, the circuit competition was at least twice as hard as anything the team faced back at county and CSN took a lot from those matchups to add to their arsenal at states.

The month of preparation leading up to states was long and hard; however it would all pay off. “I got really nervous in the weeks before states because [Travis] ended up with mild insomnia from pulling all nighters, as well as a couple of the other [team members]. I’m not really sure if it’s still insomnia if it’s self-inflicted though,” said Thomas DeMaio, witness for the prosecution.

On the first week of spring break Sacha Samotin, Sasha Bennett, and Travis Williamson (attorneys) as well as Noah Samotin, Mark Rocha, Taylor Morgan, Thomas DeMaio, and Lucky Hedin (witnesses) drove up to Orlando to go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the state. CSN went undefeated for four rounds against the toughest competition around to land them in the finals. The final round was held in the grand courtroom, on the twenty-third floor of Orange County Courthouse. From the windows of the courtroom, all you could see was the skyline. The height plus the observation deck, and LCD TV monitors playing live footage of the courtroom made for quite the sight. While the score sheets are not in yet, it would be foolish to say that the final round was anything but extremely close. The final round was attended by many of the other teams CSN faced during the competition as well as head of upper school, Jackie McCormick and history teacher Jason Scott who was gracious enough to volunteer to accompany and support the team in the absence of Mr. Utz. For the first time in nine years, CSN advanced to the state final round and took second. CSN fell just short of the team that had been in the final round for the past three years running.

Reflecting upon the experience, the entire team agreed that just reaching states was a victory in itself. One sophomore on the team commented, “It’s funny, looking back on this whole year, and even since my freshman year, it amazes me how much I, personally, and my whole team have grown. Essentially all of us, except Mark and Sacha, were on the B team just last year and now we [went to] state finals. Looking back on how nervous I was at county level, I laugh and think how silly that was after seeing the level of competition at states. I know for certain that next year we will be THE force to be reckoned with.”

Sasha Bennett also reflected, “Personally, to even be on the team going to states was amazing, but being on the team nine years after my sister won was indescribable. Next year CSN mock trial won't settle for anything less than 1st place in state

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