“It wasn’t until he was in the Best Buy parking lot and he heard kicking and screaming coming from his gold Honda Accord that he saw the defendant’s intent written all over her face,” Maeve Marley says in her opening statement. She delivers it with drama and piercing eye contact. The jury is hooked. “… You will learn that he is not just an eye witness in this case, but an actual accomplice to this crime.”
DSST: Stapleton High School Mock Trial Team has consistently been a force to be reckoned with. Mock Trial is a team of students who imitate a real trial, acting through the entire court proceeding before a panel of judges.
Mock Trial coaches assign roles including prosecuting attorney, defending attorney, judge, jury and witnesses. DSST: Stapleton Mock Trial has three teams, totaling 35 students.
This year the A Team went undefeated and competed at state in April in Pueblo, Colo. The team also won several personal awards, including Marley who won best prosecuting attorney.
The Colorado Bar Association drafts a problem released annually in November, kicking off six months of work for Mock Trial Teams around the state.
This year’s problem was based on Season One of Serial, the popular podcast featuring a high school senior who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison after a fellow student went missing. The Colorado Bar Association purposely left grey areas in the case for students to examine its many angles.
From 8-4pm every Saturday November through April, the DSST Mock Trial Team converts a classroom into a courtroom. The day usually includes breakfast—one student estimates she ate 500 bagels during the season.
None of the students plan to be lawyers—most want to go into engineering or medicine.
“Last year in parent-teacher conferences, the teacher said, ‘You’re a smart cookie, but you don’t actually do anything.’ So I joined Mock Trial and it turned out to be really fun. These people are absolutely insane and awesome,” says senior Michael Gigiolio who plays an expert witness.
The team laughs a lot and playfully interacts.
Even though the students don’t plan to go into law, through Mock Trial they’ve developed skills applicable to any career. “DSST has a lot of Type A overachievers who need a little bit of public speaking, thinking on their feet and learning to not overanalyze things. They come in very rigid and learn to think in many different ways,” says Mock Trial coach Ashley Pollock.
She and her fellow coach, Irit Lockhart, love Mock Trial because of the kids.
“When you’re a lawyer and deal with litigation, the world can seem pretty grim by the time you get to Friday,” says Lockhart, a Stapleton resident. “Then I show up here on Saturday. It puts me in a great mood. They’re the best, kindest, nerdiest kids.”