Students take on wrongful death suit

Luke Fisher, Senior Staff Reporter

Mock Trial is a club at Bellefonte where students simulate a real legal trial. Students take on accurate case material, study their evidence, and perform a court case in front of a real panel of judges, lawyers, and law students.

The first trial this year was held on January 19 and featured their defense team against DuBois, resulting in a loss with a score of 393-442. The second trial was their plaintiff team against Grace Prep, resulting in a loss with a score of 229-235.

Preparing for the trials requires a lot of preparation. The team meets weekly and researches the content of the trials. Club advisor and history teacher Mr. Matt Maris sees the real world applications this club provides for its participants. 

“This year’s trial was a wrongful death lawsuit and the students took on the role of real-world attorneys and witnesses to compete. It’s hard work but the students get a lot of skills and experience out of it,” Mr. Maris said.

One member of the club, senior Jacob Skrzycki,  prepared well for the event.

“I did extensive reading of the contents of the trial as well as different objections I might have had to make during the trial,” Jacob said.

Mr. Maris recalls seeing Jacob’s preparation play out in the courtroom. 

“They put in a lot of work so to see them in action at trial made me proud. Jacob made a memorable comment to the jury during his cross examination. He said, ‘wow, that is very interesting,’ in a way that only Jacob could. It made everyone in the courtroom smile,” Mr. Maris said.

Another member from the club, freshman Gavin St. Clair, prepared extensively for the trial.

“To prepare for the competition, I had a document with possible questions I would be asked, and the responses I should give. I would take half an hour every day and review the document,” Gavin said. 

Even though they lost both trials, they still won some awards. Awards are given by each team to their opposing team, one delegate (attorney) and one witness on each side receives an award. Senior Emma Homan won both a best delegate and a best witness award, freshman Gavin St Clair won best witness, and President of the club, senior Lilly Guenther, won best delegate. Even amidst these personal wins came some challenges.

“The biggest challenge we faced was managing everyone’s schedules in order to prepare leading up to the competitions. We also had to make some last-minute changes to roles and questions, which is always somewhat stressful, but everyone helped one another and we pulled through to put on a good trial,” Lilly said.

While the team would have loved to win, Lilly still found value in both trials and saw improvement happening for the team from one trial to the other.

“The experience of learning and working as a team was incredibly valuable,” she said. 

This was Gavin St Clair’s first year of Mock Trial, and he enjoyed the experience.

“While we didn’t win, it was still a lot of fun and everybody did really well,” Gavin said.