Amanda Holt Miller
May 1, 2005
Judge Victor Zerbi directed Glenwood Springs High School junior Sarah Lewis to walk around the podium and “invite” the witness to give a demonstration to the jury Sunday.He wasn’t in the judge’s seat. Instead, he sat where an attorney would if this were a real trial. He held a stopwatch and instructed the witnesses and lawyers as if he were a director blocking a play.
”Practice, practice, practice,” Lewis said. “It takes a lot of time and a lot of preparation to win a mock trial competition.”
That’s why the GSHS team has practiced every day for the last month.The group of eight students is the fourth mock trial team in a row GSHS has sent to compete for the National High School Mock Trial Championship. After GSHS won the state championship in March, the team got a new case to study and prepare for the national competition this week in Charlotte, N.C.
”It is a ton of work,” Lewis said. “As soon as we get the case we go out and research the elements of it. This one is about NASCAR, so we went out and learned about bolts and heat-treating bolts.”
The case the GSHS team is preparing to try now is a civil lawsuit against a company that manufactured bolts, which failed to hold a race-car driver’s seat in place, ultimately leading to his death.
”Mock trial is like debate, but it’s scripted,” said Zach Hallford, a senior on the team. “I like it because it’s a mental challenge. Not just anyone can do it; you have to be dedicated.”
The students on the team will miss almost a week of school in order to go to the competition. They practiced two to three days a week preparing for the state competition and have worked for hours every day since they got their new case.
”I think we’re more prepared for nationals than we were for state,” said junior Aubrihette Yawa. The mock trial cases are sometimes civil suits and sometimes criminal.”Criminal is more fun,” Yawa said. “It’s a lot more serious. Civil cases have a lot more legal mumbo jumbo.”
Yawa doesn’t mind the legal mumbo jumbo, though. She joined the team three years ago because she thought she might like to be a lawyer. She still does.”I’m looking at going to law school. I might like to be a judge,” said Yawa, who missed the first few days of practice because she was visiting Princeton University and New York University over her spring break. Yawa plays the role of an expert witness for the plaintiff. Hallford plays the expert witness for the defense, and Lewis is the defense attorney. They are all given affidavits and statements to define their roles, but they fill in the rest.
”You really have to think on your feet,” Lewis said. “The parts where you don’t have to think on your feet as much need to be really polished.”
That’s where coaches come into the picture. Seven coaches – professional attorneys, Zerbi and a teacher – will accompany the students on their trip to nationals.
”I think the coaches are kind of crazy people, dealing with teenagers all the time,” Lewis said. “The attorneys who work with us have a sort of teenager attitude, though. They’re funny.” Lewis said she appreciated all the support the team gets.
None of the students have to pay for the trip to North Carolina this week because the team has received so many sponsorships from the local Kiwanis and Lions clubs, law firms and individual lawyers.”This program gets support from the legal community in this area that is just unprecedented in this state,” Zerbi said.