Wilton students triumph at mock trial regionals

After beating two Connecticut schools during a mock trial simulation at Stamford Superior Court on Dec. 2, 12 members of Wilton High School’s Mock Trial Club are one step closer to competing in Civics First’s 2016-17 state-level high school mock trial competition.

Civics First is a private, non-profit association that promotes and conducts law-related education programs and projects in Connecticut’s public and private schools, courtrooms and communities.

The association’s yearly high school competitions are held in the fall, and its regional trials, like the one on Dec. 2, are held in early winter in superior courts throughout the state. Mock trial groups that pass regionals go on to compete in quarter- and semi-final contests.

The Connecticut state final mock trial competition will be held at the Connecticut Supreme Court in Hartford at a to-be-determined date. Connecticut will also host the national-level competition this year.

Wilton’s four-year-old Mock Trial Club, advised by English teacher Chris McCaffrey, is designed to give students the opportunity to learn about the work of trial attorneys, understand the judicial system and develop critical thinking and public speaking skills within a fun and competitive environment.

“Wilton’s chapter of the Mock Trial Club aims to help students enhance their close reading and argumentative skills, strengthen their poise and public speaking, and teach them what it’s like to be a lawyer/witness in a real trial setting,” said Wilton High School senior and Warrior Words columnist and Mock Trial Club secretary Skyler Addison.

“We bring in attorneys and judges throughout the year to help students fine-tune their skills, whether that be tweaking an opening argument or adding information to their cross-examinations.”

The case

Each year, Civics First provides a fictitious case to mock trial clubs across the state, filled with witness statements, evidence and laws. With these, students develop examinations and prepare to argue their own unique perspectives on the case against other schools in real courthouses.

This year’s case — B.W. Holstein v. Toni Jersey — is a civil one, which has been adapted and changed to place the events in Connecticut and reflect Connecticut law and history.

The case is about a farm owner named B.W. Holstein who sues a man named Toni Jersey, claiming his negligence while driving caused an accident that resulted in the injury and ultimate death of his prized bull, which had been standing in the road and was hit by Jersey’s van.

Jersey denies liability and instead blames a man named Jamie Martin for driving his truck too fast on the same road at the time of the incident, as well as Holstein for not keeping his bull off the road.

“The cases are pre-set to have three witnesses per side … and the rules specify that each is to be examined at trial by a separate student-lawyer,” said McCaffrey.

“That makes six kids each for plaintiff's side, or prosecution, and six for defense. Thus, a team is 12 kids.”

Wilton’s Mock Trial Club consists of two teams — Wilton Blue and Wilton White, both of which competed in Stamford.

To advance to the quarterfinals, both the defense and plaintiff sides of a team had to win their respective trials during regionals.

Wilton White’s plaintiff lawyers and witnesses beat Bethel High School, and its defense lawyers and witnesses beat Lewis. S. Mills High School.

Wilton’s other team “narrowly lost to Ludlowe and tied with Weston,” said Skyler.

“This year, three teams in Stamford had both sides win. Wilton White was one of them,” said McCaffrey.

“If two to three schools from each of the sites advance, then there will be 20 to 25 teams in the quarterfinals. We are one of approximately 20 teams in the quarterfinals.”

The following Wilton White team members are moving on to compete in the next round of mock trial competitions:

  • Plaintiff lawyers: Serina Griffin, Luke Maloney and Zack Sherman.

  • Plaintiff witnesses: Gwen Hall, Hector Melesio and Doug Beach.

  • Defense lawyers: Sadie Kinnersely, Sadie Farnworth and Richard Dineen.

  • Defense witness: Lilly Casuraghi, Kimmy Castano and Anthony Saldutti.

Information: civicsfirstct.org .