By Joshua Santis
As I took the stand to be questioned, I was going over lines in my head, trying to relax. I waited for my “lawyer” – in this case my teammate Talles Moreira – to begin the direct examination. This was our play-off match in the Mock Trial Tournament, and if we won, we would advance to the city competition. But it didn’t pan out the way we hoped it would; nonetheless, we had an extremely good run.
As a first-time member on the Mock Trial Team, I did not know what to expect from this experience or really know what the club was all about. At first I thought it was a debate team of sorts, and then learned it was a law club. Either way this interested me, so at the urging of one of my teachers, I met with my new teammates. I was happy and comfortable with them, and the ones that had prior experience in the club helped me adapt. I think helping each other was a big factor in making us a very good team. But unfortunately, we did not advance as far as we hoped. I was disappointed because when I join a team, I strive to win; and like many competitions, mock trial is as tense as it gets.
What I think I enjoyed most was the experience itself. We were fortunate enough to have Assistant District Attorney Debra Pomodore, as our coach and often met at her office to practice in a mock “courtroom” before matches. It was interesting to watch the detectives and paralegals who work there.
Since it is a law club you learn a lot about the legal system including terms such as “voir dire” or “sidebar,” and about the legal process itself. In each Mock Trial competition, there are three lawyers, three witnesses and a judge who presides over the case. What’s most important is for each side to “sell” what they are presenting, whether they are performing as the defense or prosecution. The role of a witness is especially important because you have to express confidence during the direct examination when your lawyer asks you questions about your affidavit, as well as remember all the details about the case. Then the opposing side cross-examines you, trying to get you to say things to hurt your case. You have to outsmart them. All of this is taken into account in the scoring.
You are graded on two things: Who won the case itself (the defense or prosecution), and who won the match based on points. The latter is more important because it ultimately decides which team advances to the next round. You can lose the case and still win on points to beat the other team. The judge awards points based on your presentation, your appearance, the circumstantial evidence and a whole checklist of other criteria. So it is important to impress the judge.
There is a lot of work that goes into this tournament and participants have to balance their schoolwork along with it; but I highly recommend the club to anyone. Even if you are not interested in studying law in the future, you acquire useful skills and a better understanding of the legal system. It may even change your mind about pursuing law. If you have never participated in a team or club, this is a great place to start. I assure you that you would want to come back the following year. Also, it does not hurt to include this experience on your college application.
What’s most important, as in anything one commits to, is that you are dedicated. You always have to put your best effort forward in the club in order to be a good team member and win. I am truly happy with the decision I made because I got a lot out of the Mock Trial Team and cannot wait for next season. Hopefully, I can persuade fellow students to join; they will not regret it.
Santis is a sophomore at Holy Cross High School.