Mock Trial teams find success in courtroom

This year, the Merrillville mock trial team went to compete in person for the first time since Covid-19, and both the varsity and JV teams made it to the State Competition.

The team received an actual court case in October and prepared both the prosecution and defense side in preparation for the Regional Competition in Hammond in February. Students play the roles of both attorneys and witnesses, testing their debating and acting skills.

¨I was excited that they got the chance to be in person so they could experience what it’s like to stand in an actual courtroom,” Mrs. Alison Skertic, the sponsor said. “They competed in a courthouse in Hammond that’s really pretty and they got to see all sculptures and engravings so it was very nice.”

Being in-person provided some new challenges for the students.

“It was a lot different than before because we´ve never gone to state in person, so we had to realize how the ins and outs work,” Senior Wisdom Chandler said. “We were really confused at first because it was a new building that nobody had very been to, so it was really difficult, but we got through it.”

Chandler, captain of the varsity team, was named one of the top 8 attorneys at the state competition. She is the first Merrillville student to win that honor.

“I was surprised, I did not think I was going to win that. I had not won any awards at regionals, so I was pretty surprised that I got best attorney,” she said.

Sophomore Ayana Catlin was named one of the top 8 witnesses for the state competition. 

Junior Carlton Clay and freshmen Avion Matthews and Alex Farina also won awards.

This was also the first year a JV team advanced to the state competition.

“Usually for the freshman it’s kind of a learning curve because it’s their first year, but this year, the freshman team worked really hard and competed at a high level,” Mrs. Skertic said. 

The newcomers enjoyed the experience.

“I like to feel confident and control over the courtroom as I’m going about my business as an attorney,” Farina said. “Also, playing a role as a witness is really fun, I really like getting into character.”

This year’s case was very different from previous cases they have done in the past. 

“This year we had a murder case, it sounds gruesome but it’s always more fun when it’s a murder case because they are a little bit easier to understand what’s happening,” Mrs. Skertic said. “It was a TV case with an actor shooting someone on stage and the characters were very dramatic which is always fun.”

 This case allowed the team members to put their critical-thinking skills to the test.

“This case was a lot more difficult than usual just because we had to prove two different charges and if you couldn’t prove one you were trying to get the other,” Chandler said. “We were trying  to make them culpable on both charges and that was harder than usual because it was a murder and we haven’t done that since freshman year.” 

For the competition, students have to get used to speaking their minds, and many also deliver opening and closing arguments.

“It’s made me more willing to speak in public spaces and speak louder and bring more attention to myself,” said Chandler, who is considering a career in law.

“I’ve been thinking about it. I’m teetering between two choices. If I did, I would go into immigration law or defense attorney work.” 

Farina also believes the program helped him grow.
“I’ve become a lot more confident in terms of legal things,” he said. “I feel like I was pretty confident in our case. I felt very confident in projecting and doing my attorney duties.”

Mrs. Skertic was impressed with how well the teams stepped up during both competitions.

“You really have to think on your feet because you don’t know what the other team is going to say,” she said. “I saw students from one round in the morning who were really worried and then by the afternoon they were hitting all the points debating with the other team and they really grow.”