[Update: The two teams placed 4th and 5th, respectively, out of 8 teams.]
The Mock Trial team at Marshfield High School is polishing up its case in time for the regional competition this Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids.
The competition is based on a fictional case which students role-play. They are judged based on quality of presentation and preparedness.
“A staff member at Clearwater Alternative High School was licensed to carry a firearm in the school, heard a noise that they thought was a gunshot, and proceeded to lock the school down,” said longtime head coach Steven Okonek. “During the lockdown, a student entered one of the classes she was in, and she shot him.”
The defendant has been charged with 1st degree reckless homicide, and now it’s the team’s responsibility to prove her innocence or guilt depending on the round. Students compete in four rounds during the competition and often play multiple roles.
“When we get our case we’ll read through it two, three good times to really get an understanding of what it’s about,” said Tyler Katzenberger, a junior. He’s playing a police officer witness for the prosecution, and on the defense team does a direct, cross, and closing statement. “This was my first year of closing, so I wrote my first draft all over winter break, then I’ve been fine tuning it ever since.”
Emma Gilkerson, senior, gets to play both the defendant Kelsey Grammar and the prosecuting attorney. “For the Grammar parts I’m doing some acting,” she said. “I’m supposed to be very sympathetic as that character.”
After reading over her affidavit, Gilkerson finds the best way to present the defendant. On the attorney side, she looks over the case as a whole to better interpret it.
“As a witness, we have to read through the entire affidavit and pretty much memorize it so we know all the intricate details and don’t get tripped up by some tricky question. Also, as an attorney, we try to create a whole bunch of tricky questions to slip up the witnesses,” said Clinton Tompkins, a sophomore acting as an attorney and a witness.
“I enjoy being a witness, because they give dodge questions. When I’m up, I’m practicing speech patterns and making sure I sound confident. When I’m not, I’m doing more studying and making sure my questions make sense,” he said.
Performance is an important component during Mock Trial, where even speech patterns are judged. Students are encouraged to delve into their roles.
“Because I’m a teacher, I’m supposed to act like a teacher would,” said Drake White-Bergey, a junior playing Spanish teacher Billy Jones, also acting as defense attorney for the defendant. The roles require memorizing opening statements and witness details. “For my attorney role, I just try and make the defendant seem as innocent as possible.”
As double attorney for the trial, freshman Kennan Chojnacki reviews the case materials and highlights what’s important. He alters his tone of voice depending on what the witness is discussing – becoming more aggressive on a cross examination, for example.
Marshfield will compete against six other teams from Wisconsin Rapids, Merrill, Lakeland, and Reedsburg.