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Seeking a Winning Verdict
Prep Mock Trial team aims high as courtroom clashes begin. Read more about the updates happening on the Prep campus!
For the 33rd year in a row, legal Eagles from St. John’s will test their skills of advocacy, public speaking, and the ability to think on their feet as the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Mock Trial Program kicks off its 2018 competitive season on January 29, when the Prep’s assemblage of “attorneys” and “witnesses” are ready match wits in preliminary-round action.
The Eagles go to trial inside Woburn District Courthouse and are scheduled to face Bishop Fenwick as their season-opening opponent. In the first of three preliminary trials, St. John's will represent the plaintiff in a civil breach-of-contract claim. The case hinges on whether the plaintiff's father was murdered, the victim of an accident, or committed suicide. A multi-million-dollar insurance payout is at stake.
“Every year, we switch off between a civil case and a criminal case,” explains Mock Trial Club co-president Ben Coray ’18. “Over the four years I have been on the team, I have experienced a murder/self-defense, medical malpractice, and murder/mental illness case. This year's case is unlike what I’ve ever seen before in a Mock Trial case, because the plaintiff, which represents the estate, has multiple routes they can argue. The defense represents the insurance company and holds the “burden of production” in this case, which means that they have the burden of producing evidence that it is more likely than not the policy-holder was depressed, and thus ended his own life.”
Schools participating in the program must represent both the plaintiff and defense in the case. St. John’s will advocate for the plaintiff in their second trial match against Bishop Fenwick, and return to defense for the third round of preliminary competition against Reading High.
“Watching the students’ thought processes develop and confidence grow is one of the things I enjoy most,” said Gail Dennig, herself an attorney and now in her 14th year as the team’s coach. Melrose-based practicing attorney, Adam Malinowski is assisting the team for a second consecutive season. “I think it’s so important that students learn how the courts work for both criminal and civil matters in addition to taking to heart the notion that every story has at least two sides.”
Participating schools across the state are divided into 32 geographic regions for the preliminary rounds. The team with the greatest percentage of wins in each region advances. Regional winners then compete against one another in match pairings assigned at random. On the same day, the 16 winners from the regionals then compete by random draw. The “Elite Eight” and “Final Four” are held immediately afterwards. During the 2015-16 academic year, St. John’s won its regional title and advanced all the way to the round of eight.
“I found Mock Trial when my parents told me I should join, because I argue so much,” said Brendan Deller ’19. “I was looking for something I enjoyed that was also competitive on campus. I have made friends with people who share a certain interest with me and I like the way we work the case together.”
Coray and Deller are joined on the squad by co-president John Gold ’18 and veteran classmate Timothy Hornick. Other team members likely to see plenty of action in the preliminary rounds are Nick Rice ’19, Nick Malinowski '20, Jarred Nowak ’20, Ryan Reynolds ’19, Mitchell Robson ’20, Zach Grunes ’20 and Joe DeSimone ’20. Other core members include Neil Isaac, Luc Hoch ’21, Tim Perry ’20, Peter McDowell ’20, Alex Troisi ’20, Dan Dischino ’21 and Sam Indresano ’19.
“I love being able to look into how real court cases are documented and how court proceedings function,” says Coray. “Although the Mock Trial cases are fabricated, they give you a feel for how easily some court cases can sway one way or another. But being a co-president of the club is what I enjoy the most because I get to teach the younger members the skills I have learned over the years. Leadership is a huge passion of mine, and I am able to exemplify it while talking about something I am equally passionate about in Mock Trial.
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