Cape High juniors prepare for mock trial competition

Contest hones litigation, public speaking, acting skills
December 3, 2018

Every student on Cape’s Mock Trial team is a fierce competitor, coach Kristian Schmidt said.

“At the end of last year, they immediately said they couldn’t wait till next year,” the Cape High social studies teacher said. “They want to win, and they’re only juniors, so they have two more full years. I couldn’t have more pride in these kids.”

Scheduled Feb. 22-24 in Wilmington, the tournament hosts mock trial teams from more than 25 Delaware schools that enact trials before a panel of judges, attorneys and other members of the legal community.

Students received details of the civil case in November. They meet several times a week to analyze the case and develop trial strategies.

“What I enjoy most is working with kids who have a passion,” Schmidt said. “I just give them the structure and let them take over.”

Comprising all juniors, Cape team members will play the role of witnesses and prosecuting and defense attorneys, and can win gavels awards in each category.

Student Morgan Whittam said teams are judged not on whether they would have won the actual case, but on how well they argue points and find holes in the other team’s case.

“When questioning the other team, you don’t know what they will say,” she said. “You need to know all witness statements, how to respond on the spot and justify your point. If you hear an objection, you have to respond right away.”

Schmidt said objections are crucial. “They’re a great scoring opportunity and advantage to the team.”

While some students, including Maddie Betts and Jayden Lesko, are considering careers in law, most join the club because of an interest in theater or to enhance communication skills.

Self-proclaimed theater kid Ethan Simon said he joined because of the people and the experience.

“I knew half the people in the club and thought joining would help with public speaking and college applications,” he said.

Daphne Branner joined to fine-tune her acting skills. She said she has to develop her character, whether she is playing an attorney or witness, and build on her improv skills.

“It’s a lot like acting on the stage,” she said. “Before you get on the stand, you have to memorize the script.”

Taylor Dade said he enjoys the analytical aspect of the club.

“I’m not pre-law but I see the value of performing an argument and seeing both sides,” he said.

Wyatt Fruehauf said he is not interested in law or theater.

“It’s just a good time,” he said. “It feels like family.”