Wayland varsity mock trial wins Garden City Tournament


Credit: Courtesy of Kally Proctor

The Wayland High School varsity mock trial team holds the first place plaque for the Garden City Tournament at Newton North High School. “There are a lot of schools in Massachusetts that do mock trial, but just being able to compete in Garden City means something because it means that the Massachusetts Bar Association recognizes the effort that Wayland High School puts into mock trial,” junior mock trial member Mariam Gayed said. “Then to have that effort pay off with our win really reflects on all of our team’s hard work.”

Aimee Smith

On Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23, Wayland High School’s varsity mock trial team participated in a two-day tournament, the Garden City tournament, at Newton High School. The WHS mock trial team ultimately took first place in the tournament against seven other top high school mock trial teams.

The Garden City tournament is a preseason, invitation-only tournament that WHS is routinely invited to. Arriving at 9:00 a.m. on both days, WHS varsity mock trial competed in three rounds of trials against different schools about the same case.

“It was tiring but exciting to have a weekend where all we thought about was a mock trial and got to interact with the other strongest teams in the state,” senior WHS varsity mock trial captain Amelie Martin said. “I liked that we got all the trials over within a weekend, but I’m glad that this isn’t our regular format because it would be too tiring to keep up for weeks on end.”

This year, Garden City’s case file involved a criminal case where the teams debated over whether or not a suspect was guilty. WHS varsity mock trial was on the side of the defendant, meaning they were arguing for the person accused of murder. For this particular case, the WHS mock trial team had to raise reasonable doubt that a rich old woman, who died via overdose, was not murdered by her grandniece.

During the trial, team members were assigned either a lawyer or witness role where they had to go head-to-head with other teams playing their assigned roles. Because Garden City was just a preseason tournament and does not affect WHS varsity mock trial’s standing in the State tournament, it was an opportunity for students to play roles that they might not be familiar with.

“[The captains and I] talk about trying to give people roles in the Garden City tournament that they might not have a chance to do in the regular season because it’s a practice tournament,” civil lawyer and WHS mock trial advisor Howard Lenow said. “We gave people difficult roles they might not have they haven’t done before to give them some experience.”

Having the chance to try out new roles was stressful to some mock trial members, including junior Mariam Gayed, who played the role of a crossing attorney. Despite these challenges, WHS varsity mock trial prepared students like Gayed so they felt ready to play their respective roles. This preparedness came from reading over the case and spending hours drafting and rewriting their cross, direct or witness statements.

“I felt like I played my role pretty well because I got to show a side of me that I never thought I had,” Gayed said.”I was even told by one of the judges that I intimidated the witness very well, and that made me feel very proud of myself.”

In addition to the WHS mock trial team winning the three trials they competed in, Martin won the best witness award for her role as an expert witness with a PHD in pharmacology. The judges gave out two individual awards to students at the end of the tournament: one for the best witness and one for the best lawyer. The judges decided who performed the best by each nominating one person after a trial, and picking whoever had the most total nominations at the end as the winner.

“The judge, who is an actual superior court judge in Massachusetts, turned to [Martin] and said, ‘well, you could be my doctor anytime’ because she was so convincing as a doctor of pharmacology,” Lenow said.

According to Lenow, the atmosphere between teams during the competition is similar to a typical sports rivalry. However, being at the in-person preseason tournament allowed teams from different schools to communicate outside of competing in the trials.

“Some of the mock trial [participants] from the other teams are people who I have been competing with since my freshman year,” senior varsity mock trial captain Trisha Raj said. “It was fun to see them and catch up with them. The atmosphere between teams is different in Garden City in that it is friendlier.”

Garden City provides WHS the mock trial team with the opportunity to receive advice that will help them during the state competition season. In addition to the usual advice Lenow gives his team, the WHS team also received advice from judges, who took the time to talk to each school about their performance during the trial.

“The advice that we received from the judges was very constructive and encouraging,” Raj said. “It’s always helpful to get feedback from various sources so that you can get a wide range of perspectives. We couldn’t have won Garden City without Lenow. He always prepares us very well for the trials and is instrumental in any success we have.”

Mock trial has also provided some participants with skills that they use outside of the club. These students are able to use the advice they get from their advisors and judges to improve their overall confidence and public speaking abilities.

“I definitely think that, at some point during the trial, you forget that it is a role and you feel like you’re genuinely so immersed in it,” Gayed said. “I feel like it’s a really good way to prepare yourself for being in situations where you have to maintain yourself in front of a large group of people. No matter what your career is, if you ever give a presentation or talk to a group of people, [mock trial] really helps you.”

WHS varsity mock trial’s effort shone through when they won all three trials they competed in and took first place in the Garden City tournament. According to Gayed, although winning is a major confidence booster, the long-term skills students gain through mock trial are the most important part of the club.

“The objective of mock trial, [for me], is not to win,” Lenow said. “My objective as the coach is to teach kids how to think on their feet, how to argue effectively and how to work hard for what they want. And if that results in us winning, that’s wonderful.”