Team Wins Using Power of Persuasion
Writer / Kara Reibel
Photography / Provided by Janet Chandler
The Mock Trial team started its tradition at Hamilton Southeastern High School in 2001. The team is made up of a group of quick-thinking, passionate students that debate a fictitious court case against other area high school teams.
“This year’s case involved similar circumstances to that of the State Fair grandstand tragedy,” said Janet Chandler, HSE Mock Trial facilitator. The case involved the death of a concertgoer from a lightening strike. The decedent’s family has filed a wrongful death claim again the band, claiming that the defendant failed to cancel the concert due to bad weather.
Throughout the Mock Trial season, one specific case is debated with the competitors not knowing which side of the case they will need to present or defend until just minutes prior to showtime.
“I love Mock Trial because of the challenge presented in the case and the great group of people on the team,” said Mock Trial member and HSE senior Hannah Eaton. “It is rewarding to see our team’s hard work pay off this year. After competing in a trial when you know your side killed, it is awesome after all the hours of practice. Mock Trial’s uniqueness derives from the fact that every trial presents new challenges and interesting spins on the case. One of the most important skills I have gained from Mock Trial is the ability to think quickly on my feet and adjust to what curveballs are thrown at you.”
The students develop close friendships with their teammates as well as improve their communication skills. “Some of my best friends are from Mock Trial,” said Eaton. “Mock Trial has taught me to work as a team.” Eaton plans to major in criminal justice and attend law school.
Senior Andrew Notar Donato enjoys Mock Trial because of the mental challenges it presents. “It is just a big puzzle of persuasion. The goal is always to make the court believe and trust in your side of the case, and when you hit a bump in the road, you have to piece your way back to what it is that you want to reveal. It’s the most complex mental game I know,” said Donato.
Self-confidence, public speaking experience, communication skills, competition and friendships are all enhanced by participating in Mock Trial. And while the cases are fictitious, the benefits that the students gain are real. This year the team won the Hamilton County Championship sponsored by the Hamilton County Bar Association and finished fourth at state. The team is scheduled to participate in a national invitational this summer in Chicago that is sponsored by the YMCA and the American Bar Association.
Chandler has had several former students go on to law school, and one of her former Mock Trial students went on to become a professional football player with the Colts, Joe Reitz.
“It’s amazing to witness the positive impact the Mock Trial experience has on a student,” said Chandler. “And with Mock Trial, you can count on it, given the dedication and focus of the team.”
Chandler is the teacher sponsor for the Mock Trial team. She is the social studies department chair, teaches AP government classes and leads We The People at HSE. Chandler is also the Teachers’ Association representative.