The jury is out: mock trial team awaiting court


Connor Miller

Captain Danny Nakamura ’19, Nic Urick ’20, and Annabel Teague ’20 working on their upcoming case.

     Since November, Wilmington Friends School’s Mock Trial team has been hard at work, preparing for the competition on February 22nd-23rd. The A-Team is comprised of twelve members, split between a plaintiff and defense team. Each team has three attorneys and three witnesses. The plaintiff’s attorneys are Danny Nakamura ’19, Grant Sheppard ’19, and Claire Manning ’22. The plaintiff witnesses are Kat Nix ’19, Nick Urick ’20, and Anniina Lappalainen ’21. The defense attorneys are Ellie Bradley ’19, Annabel Teague ’20, and Elissa Belleroche ’21. The defense witnesses are Elise Johnson ’21, Kaylyn Freeman ’22, and Austin Sarker-Young ’22.

     The 2019 case is a corporate case, and revolves around an international company, Mid-East Stevedores Services, or MESS, attempting to acquire a Delaware Port, through a company operating that port, Delaware Auto and Marine Corporation, or DAM. The plaintiff is trying to prove that DAM’s director, Pat Kent, hasn’t fulfilled his fiduciary duty to his shareholders, as MESS is offering a higher offer than DAM’s current shares are selling at, and he has refused their offer. The defense is trying to prove that MESS poses a threat to national security, and is tied to terrorism. Both sides must prove their side beyond the burden of a reasonable doubt.

     What is often confused by non-mock trial participants is that our defense and plaintiff teams do not go against each other in the actual competition. They go one at a time against other schools’ teams from various schools in the state. During the competition, one of our teams will go during the morning and the other will go during the afternoon, and this order may be repeated or flipped the following day. There are four rounds total, and each gets more difficult or more easy depending on how your team did the previous round. For example, if you lose the first round in the morning, your afternoon may be less difficult to win because you are going against another team that lost. Rounds are judged by a local judge, and the rounds are scored by lawyers and judges from Delaware who take time out of their jobs to watch and evaluate the teams’ work.

     The way that a mock trial is set up is actually pretty simple. First are opening statements, delivered by Bradley for the defense and Sheppard for the plaintiff. The plaintiff then presents their three witnesses, who are subject to direct and cross-examination. Following the plaintiff, the defense presents their three witnesses in the same manner. During these examinations, lawyers on the opposing teams may object to a question posed by the lawyer or answers given by the witness. These objections are usually to hearsay, speculation, relevance, character evidence, or the scope. When an objection is made, the lawyer being objected to is given an opportunity to respond to the objection, and say why the objection is faulty or inaccurate. The judge makes a decision on who’s argument had more logic and validity, and either sustains or overrules the objection. After all of the witnesses have testified, closing arguments are given. This year, Teague will deliver the closing argument for the defense and Nakamura will deliver it for the plaintiff.

     Anticipating the competition, Sheppard says, “I am really excited for our team to build off of the success we had last year. We have a lot of promise this year and I’m optimistic about how we’ll perform. We’ve done a great job of sticking to firm deadlines this year and I think it’s going to pay off.”

     Lappalainen  mentioned, “I’m excited about the competition; I believe in our team and I think we will do well!” Lappalainen testifies on the plaintiff side as Erin Sussex, retiree and shareholder of DAM and their stocks  who feels that Pat Kent (Sarker-Young) and the board of directors at DAM have not fulfilled their fiduciary duties.

     Though there is much work to be done before the start of the competition, both teams feel proud of their accomplishments in preparation thus far. Mock trial meets Wednesday nights from 6-7:30 PM, Saturday mornings from 9-11 AM, as well as weekly lunch meetings, so it’s not a small commitment. Following a team that won the state-wide competition in 2016 and 2017, and a slightly disappointing defeat last year, the pressure is on. Make sure to wish good luck to your mock trial-ing peers!

     Results Update from club faculty advisor Betsy Renzo:  “I just returned from two long and wonderful days of Mock trial with our amazing students. We won 3 out of 4 rounds, and ended up getting 5th place! We’re thrilled with this result, as we faced one truly incredible team today from St. Elizabeth’s.

     Best attorney gavels were given to Claire Manning, Ellie Bradley, and Elissa Belleroche and best witness gavels were given to Elise Johnson, Nick Urick, and Austin Sarker-Young!”