By John Robert
In their first year competing in the event, students from Trenton High School managed to earn an honorable mention in the regional competition of the 2012 Mock Trial Tournament.
The competition is put on by the Michigan Center for Civic Education, and involves two teams of students taking opposing roles in a case, ranging from the prosecutors or defendants to the witnesses. The sides are randomly drawn, and though the roles are partially scripted, the case itself does not invoke clear guilt.
The students are then judged by a panel of three attorneys, who vote on which team they think had the stronger performance. In this manner, the students compete in three separate trials.
“We didn’t know how much work was going into it,” said Diane Nowak, parent of competing student Sean Nowak, “I mean, we saw him working on it, but when we saw (the event), it was very impressive. The students did a phenomenal job.”
The team was coached and assembled by Trenton High School teacher Dan Taylor, after he “saw how much the students were getting out the program” while he was student teaching, and decided to try to gauge interest for the team this year.
“There was a lot of positive feedback,” he said, and the numbers speak for themselves. “We had about 25 students come back with interest, and we had to narrow it down to a team of eight students.” These students would work tirelessly among themselves, and with their advisers, Judge Jennifer Hesson and Judge Michael McNally from the 33rd District Court.
Trenton, the only team from Downriver, managed to win outright in two of its trials, but lost its middle match by points, which come into play when there is no consensus from the judges. Taylor is convinced this match is what cost them their chance at making the State Finals.
“They put in a solid effort, we took 11th out of 41 teams,” he said, with a strong sense of pride in how well they performed, though tempered by disappointment in how close they came to the next round.
The unexpected showing put them only three spots out of the State Finals, which are held in Lansing.
“There were some nerves involved, being their first time in the competition,” said Taylor, who thinks this is merely a reason to look forward to next year, when many of the students will be returning to compete once again.