Students from Delaware Hayes High School joined peers from six other schools and spent Friday engaged in fierce “legal battles” during the 2018 Ohio High School Mock Trial Competition at the Hayes Building in downtown Delaware.
The proceedings centered around a fictional case that involved a post-conviction petition filed by a man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. Teams had to address the case from both perspectives — the defendant’s, who argued that his trial attorney mishandled cellphone evidence and failed to call a potential alibi witness to testify, and the State’s, arguing that none of those things would have changed the outcome of the case. Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge David Gormley, who also serves as the Delaware County coordinator of the competition, said the case was inspired by the popular podcast “Serial.”
“A competition like this helps students to develop the kind of poise, self-confidence, and advocacy skills that will serve them well in whatever career path they choose,” Gormley said. “I enjoy playing a small role in helping such a worthwhile educational program to run smoothly here every year.”
Hayes senior Mallorie Watts role-played as an attorney during the event and said she signed up for the competition because she did mock government and was curious about seeking a career in law.
The competition involved a courtroom-like setting with testimony, objections, and panels of judges, played by local attorneys.
“I don’t think I want to do law. It’s a little intense,” Watts joked.
Watts and her “co-counsel” Mackenzie Collett said mock trial is a course or a club with school funding at many other schools they competed against, but the Hayes team had to sell candy bars to buy the course materials, which meant they were getting them months after the other teams.
“We were kind of the underdogs,” said Collett, a freshman. “But I think our passion showed through.”
Collett said she wanted to be an attorney from a very young age, but changed her mind in fourth grade, when she decided she wanted to be an appellate judge. Collett said this is her first time doing mock trial and said she was very excited for the competition.
“I was very nervous,” Collett said. “It further made me feel like I want to go into law.”
Ultimately, Team “Courtroom Crew” from Buckeye Valley and Team “Gold” from Big Walnut advanced to the next round of competition and will compete again at the regional competition on Feb. 16. The state finals are on March 8-10 in Columbus.
Delaware City Attorney Darren Shulman served as a judge for the competition and said he agreed to be a judge for professional and personal reasons.
“Being a mock trial judge is a great way to advance the practice of law by helping the next generation of lawyers,” Shulman said. “On a more personal level, my brother Jeff was in mock trial in high school, so I like to judge to give back to a program that meant a lot to him.”
As a judge, Shulman has to hear objections from both teams and guide the competition.
“I am always amazed by how talented the teams are,” Shulman said. “Each year, the presentations get better and better. The teams clearly spend a lot of time preparing and that hard work shows during the competition. Each year, I leave the competition with renewed hope for the future of law.”