The court is no longer in session


For students at Calvert High School, winter is filled with many meanings: looming midterms, ending athletic seasons, the final trek before graduation. For a few, winter means the beginning of the Mock Trial season.  

Mock Trial is exactly what it sounds like. Each year the American Mock Trial Association creates a fake, yet realistic, court case that teams across the nation present in an actual court of law before a real judge.  

Under the leadership of veteran sponsor Ms. Margaret Land and new sponsor Mrs. Dawn Lister, Calvert High’s team has had tremendous success in their season.  

The Mock Trial competition gives students the opportunity to learn and experience the judicial branch of our government.  The students are given the opportunity to practice oration skills, use analysis to create and implement legal strategy, and evaluate evidence in an effective manner to help build a logical argument… progressed tremendously in these skills and cognitive processes throughout the competition and it is rewarding as a coach to see their growth,” said Ms. Land.  

After receiving the 2018-19 criminal case, Maryland v Tannen, sponsors assigned roles to the team’s 15 members. Performance roles include three prosecution/ plaintiff attorneys (Ryan Wojciechowski, Gracie Bradford, and Ashley Smith), three defense attorneys (Dominic Fiore, Clare Thompson, and Angel Kontra), three witnesses for the prosecution/ plaintiff (Destiny Johnson, Tenia Booth, and Kyle Thomas) three witnesses for the defense (Emily Shrieves, Gabrielle Bubin, and McKenzie Eller), bailiff (Jared Gott), and alternates (Tyler Seawell and Briana Garcia).  

“Many people underestimate witnesses because they don’t have to necessarily know court terminology or form cases like the lawyers do, but in reality, witnesses can be the difference between a guilty and a not guilty verdict. I really enjoyed learning how to deflect questions and defend myself when I’m on the stand,” said Shrieves 

 With roles assigned and many returning members filling performance roles, the team diligently worked to prepare questions and responses for direct and cross examination.    

Beginning in December, the team began a vigorous practice schedule of three days during the school week. At each meeting respective sides worked together to perfect laying the foundation for their case. To prepare for the public speaking and quick-thinking that comes along with being in the courtroom, the team scrimmaged against itself as well.  

“It was really good preparation for what to expect once we were up there [on the stand],” said Thomas. 

On January 23, the team traveled to the Calvert County Circuit Court where they presented their case on behalf of the prosecution for the first time against Thomas Stone. The final score came to 39-31 Calvert with all-star recognition to Wojciechowski and Johnson. 

The prosecution’s second competition on January 29 was cancelled due to inclement weather and rescheduled for February 20.  

For the team’s next scheduled competition on February 5, members traveled to the St. Mary’s Circuit Court where they presented their case on behalf of the defense for the first time against Leonardtown. The result was a close score of 49-50 Leonardtown, broken by the “tie-point” every judge gives prior to tallying up score sheets. All-star recognition was awarded to Kontra, Shrieves, and Seawell.  

The defense competed again on February 14 at the St. Mary’s Circuit Court against St. Mary’s Ryken. After the close call in their first presentation, defense members came back stronger than ever with a 56-53 win for Calvert and all-star recognition for Kontra and Bubin. 

The prosecution’s rescheduled competition was again cancelled due to inclement weather, marking an end to the team’s season in district competition.  

Due to the cancellations and the usual four competition season, the team’s advancement to regional-level competition was based on their averaged scores.  

We qualified for playoffs by placing in the top 16 teams in our region, which includes Calvert, St. Mary’s, Charles, and PG counties.   We finished 10th out of the top 16 teams this year,” said Mrs. Lister.  

For the first level of regional competition on February 27, the team traveled to the Prince George’s County Circuit Court where members competed against St. Mary’s Ryken as the defense. The score was broken by a tie point with a 48-47 win for Calvert, and all-star recognition was awarded to Fiore and Shrieves 

“I’m impressed that we were able to get farther than last year and I’m happy that so many new members will be able to carry the tradition of the team,” said Fiore.   

The win meant the team moved up another bracket and was set to compete as the prosecution against Parkland at the Prince George’s County Circuit Court on March 8. Both sides put on excellent presentations resulting in a 49-50 Parkdale broken by the tie-point. All-star recognition was awarded to Bradford and Seawell. 

“I was really excited when I found out we qualified for regionals because it showed we had an amazing team, especially the defense that got us there. I was also about it because that meant the prosecution, including myself, had a chance to perform again,” said Smith.  

Although the loss marked the end of the season for Calvert, members celebrated that this was the team’s farthest advancement in the last three years. In addition, the team finished in the top 10 out of the teams for their region.  

Mrs. Land and myself are very proud of the team and their work to advance to the regional playoff level and finish in the top 8 teams.  The time and effort each member of the team puts in is instrumental to the success of the entire team,” said Mrs. Lister.  

Filled with hard work, dedication, and well-crafted presentation, Calvert High’s Mock Trial team truly had a wonderful season.  

The writer is a student in the Young Journalists Program, a partnership between The Calvert Recorder and Calvert County Public Schools. This article was originally published on Wednesday March 21, 2019.