Mock Trial Teams Takes on Regionals and State

Henry Mildenstein, Reporter

At the state mock trial tournament City High’s red team placed 12th out of 32 at the tournament.

“I was fine with our place, however some of our teammates thought we could have done a little better,” Eric Thomas ’18 said.

But to qualify for the state tournament, four City High mock trial teams had to do a lot of preparation in order to place in the top two teams in the regional competition.

This year, the Iowa mock trial theme was criminal case wherein the defendant, Devin Emerson, was charged with arson, armed robbery, and murder. Each team had to be ready to act as the prosecution or the defense on competition day.

“It can be really exhausting trying to look at the same case from multiple perspectives,” said Rylee Zuniga ‘19. “You always worry that you’re going to mix them up during the trial. It’s definitely an acquired skill to be able to switch your mindset between defense and prosecution, you only get better with practice.”

You always worry that you’re going to mix them up during the trial. It’s definitely an acquired skill to be able to switch your mindset between defense and prosecution, you only get better with practice.”

— Rylee Zuniga

Each team is made up of four attorneys and six witnesses. City High’s Red team consisted of Maxwell Meyer, Eden Knoop, Zoe Hopewell, and Kawther Rouhabhi as attorneys and Anna Denniston, Maya Durham, Eric Thomas, Jessica Sheffield, Gabriel McCormick, and Serena Collins as the team’s witnesses. According to Meyer, the team was able to get a lot of the important aspects of their case right.

“Mock Trial is very unique. It is very important to be prepared, but you don’t want to sound scripted. You should be professional and well-spoken, but not robotic. It’s almost like a cross between debate and theater,” said Meyer. “Even if you have the best argument, if you cannot present yourself well, you will lose. Our team is great at balancing preparation with the likability and off-the-fly factors involved in doing well.”

The Red City High team placed second out of seven teams, which was a high enough finish to qualify them for the state tournament on March 24th and 25th. Despite the high ranking, Meyer thinks there is still room for improvement in some of the small technical aspects of mock trial.

“Courtroom etiquette is quite complex and sometimes seems ridiculous, but it’s very important to follow the rules to the letter, even if you feel ridiculous doing so,” Meyer said.

City’s junior team also competed in the regional.

“The competition went very well we scored the most points out of the entire regionals and went up against both Marion teams, however points don’t determine where you place,” said Zuniga.

The team consisted of Salwa Sidahmed, Rylee Zuniga, Rocio Stejskal, and Lottie Gidal as lawyers and Samba Traore, Rachael Volkman, Patrick Mcmillan, Kate Murray, Nhat Tran, and Beatrice Kearns as witnesses.

“Out of the regional tournament only two teams get to go on to state. There are two judges that vote on which teams won. We got both of the judges to give us their vote in round one and we only got one the next round so we did not move on to the state tournament,” Zuniga said.

The junior team felt like they put enough practice in beforehand to have an advantage.

“At the completion things fell into place and the things we practiced helped us think one step ahead of the other teams,” Zuniga said.  

Like City’s Senior Team the junior team felt that they also could have improved on the small details of mock trial.

“We definitely could have done the minuscule aspects of mock trial better. Even if you don’t think it is necessary to say something like ‘may I proceed’ it is extremely important that you do,” Zuniga said.

City also had team another junior senior team. The team consisted of John Geerdes, Eli Anderson, Robert Strang, Quinn Kopelman, Ivy Montei, Christina, Mira Bonham-Kumar, Kate Malkusak, Catherine Geerdes, and Nick Cronk.  

“I thought the team improved a lot as the the competition progressed,” Kopelman said. “From the first to the second round we took things we learned and implemented them into our strategy.”

Being a new team the team also was not entirely confident going in.

“I think our team was afraid to make objections and doing that better would have helped us,” Kopelman said. “But he competition was still really fun and I really enjoyed doing the closing for our team.”

Jason Schumann, the faculty sponsor for mock trial, was happy with the hard work and improvement of the kids.

“I particularly enjoyed watching the first year mock trial students improve after every round,” Schumann said. “I was happy with how all of our teams did. There were other very good teams like Marian Homeschool and there were only two state bids so we couldn’t qualify all of our teams for state but they all still did a good job.”

I was happy with how all of our teams did. There were other very good teams like Marian Homeschool and there were only two state bids so we couldn’t qualify all of our teams for state but they all still did a good job.”

— Jason Schumann

After the Red team qualified for state they had to start preparing.  

“We adjusted our strategy for the state tournament. We changed the theme of the case for both the prosecution and defense. We also refined all the little things that had gone wrong at regionals,” Hopewell said. “Overall we were well prepared, our witnesses were very engaging and had a strong character which gave us an advantage over some of the other teams.”

Despite their experience with mock trial, going into the tournament the Red team had a some nerves.  

“Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of really smart people on our teams and sometimes people were thinking faster than they could speak which was an issue,” Hopewell said. “It was really amazing to see the culmination of all of hard work put into mock trial.”