Whoever said hard work doesn’t pay off must not have worked as hard as our 8th Grade Mock Trial Team, which recently swept the competition at La Roche University!
Students included in the winning efforts were Jack Alcorn, Trevor Blauch, Tessa Cagno, Andrew Connelly, Emma Demitras, Christopher Dimit, Josie Farster, Irina Franco, Tessa Hollibaugh, Abby Kushon, Carlee Majernik, Juliet Moore, Liliana Porco, Kaylee Pryor, Ella Thomas, and Anna Shaffer.
“We were definitely very nervous going in, and I felt that we overcame that and did really well together,” Josie Farster, who was named the Best Witness in her trial, said. “I was happy to get Best Witness, but it was really a team effort that made us successful.”
The group of 16 Deer Lakes Middle School Students spent weeks preparing for their trial while eating lunch in the Innovation Center. They were split into a defense team and a prosecution team for separate trials against other schools at the North Allegheny Gifted Consortium's Mock Trial Competition.
“We are all close friends in and out of school, which made it really easy to relate to each other and it meant that we could go to each other for advice and be honest with each other,” Carlee Majernik, who was named the Best Witness in a separate trial, said. “We might think of something to put in our case, but someone else might see how there could be an objection.”
“Mock trial was a lot of fun, and it definitely opened my eyes to how court cases work,” Josie Farster added. “It was nice having the opportunity to work with a team as we learned. It was hard at first. I had to memorize all of my direct answers, but I also had to understand how to answer possible questions for cross. You didn’t know how the prosecution would question you.”
Students worked together to build arguments, researched proper courtroom protocols, and sparred with each other during practice runs of direct and cross examinations.
Carlee Majernik began with a five-page script, which was cut to two pages with help from others.
“Everyone went to each other for feedback to make our case stronger,” she said. “Mrs. Juran and Mrs. Mickle are some of the best teachers I’ve ever had. They helped us so, so much. They had a great impact on us. I learned a lot from this experience, which opened my eyes to possibly doing law in the future. I worked very hard on this entire project and I’m glad it all paid off. None of it would be possible without my friends and family.”
Tessa Hollibaugh was an attorney for the prosecution and worked alongside Juliet Moore, Jack Alcorn and Irina Franco to prove the defendant’s guilt. The opportunity to work with Mrs. Juran and Mrs. Mickle helped strengthen their case.
“It was a great group to work with, and it was a great experience, especially for career exploration,” Tessa Hollibaugh said. “It’s made a lot of us interested in law. If that’s what I pursue, I would want to be a defense attorney.”
Tessa Hollibaugh and Liliana Porco won Best Lawyer awards for their work during their separate trials.
“It felt great to have all of our hard work pay off,” Tessa Hollibaugh said. “It was definitely worth all of that time.”
Liliana Porco was a defense attorney with Abby Kushon as her witness.
“It was challenging coming up with questions and strategically understanding how to have your witness answer them,” Liliana Porco said. “When I did my cross I did go in more of an order, but it honestly depended on how witnesses answered. I actually ended up taking some questions out.”
Liliana Porco’s fellow attorneys were Ella Thomas and Kaylee Pryor.
“I love them,” Liliana Porco said. “Having multiple witnesses but having each one of us with a specific witness made our process easier. We worked together on our case overall and built chemistry with each other. Everyone worked well together.”
Great teamwork! #DLProud