Above: The 2021 EGHS Mock Trial team during a practice session.
Last month, East Greenwich High School won the annual state Mock Trial tournament after an undefeated season, marking the first time EGHS had placed first in the tournament as well as the first time in nearly 10 years that a public school won first place. More than 20 public and private schools in Rhode Island compete in the tournament each year.
As with other state-level competitions happening this year, the entire Mock Trial tournament took place online and via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite EGHS’s success in the tournament, students agree there were drawbacks to competing virtually.
Up until this year, trials have always taken place in a courtroom, a setting that perfectly aligns with the nature of the competition. This year, students weren’t able to maintain the same eye contact and one-on-one conversations they normally would with their peers.
“When you’re crossing someone, it’s way more fun to actually have that connection [in a courtroom],” said co-captain Sadie Moore, a junior at EGHS.
“It almost takes away from the whole experience of mock trial, doing it online,” said co-captain and senior Lily Wunsch. “Going into a real courtroom with a real judge and everything – it’s a unique experience.”
At the same time, however, the captains agree that the virtual aspect carried some advantages.
“I think it might’ve been a little easier on the team because it’s way easier to have your notes out,” said Moore. “In a real trial, we always stress for everything [to be] memorized, because that looks way better.” But if you’re on a computer, everyone can have their notes. So, it takes a little bit of the pressure off.”
The tournament is split into seven total trials. Each school’s performance in the first three trials determines its place in the playoffs, which consists of another four trials. Since EGHS was undefeated in each trial, the team entered the playoffs with the highest score.
“We were seated number one pretty much the whole way,” said Wunsch.
Each year, the Rhode Island Legal Education Foundation aims to assign students a case related to the state and current affairs. Interestingly enough, this year’s case not only took place in Rhode Island, but also involved COVID-19.
In the case, two people broke into a Cranston resident’s home and robbed them. After a couple weeks, the resident died from respiratory failure caused by COVID-19 in his system. One of the two thieves also tested positive for COVID-19.
The team just recently met in person at EGHS for the first time. Before then, members had been using Zoom and Google Meet for practices.
“I do have to say,” said Wunsch, “it is nice to be in person meeting again … because I feel like the communication is a little bit easier.”
After having won the state tournament, the team will be heading to the national competition in mid-May. Though it will all be online again, the case takes place in Indiana, since that’s where the national round was set to take place.
The 91-page national case is twice as long and informative as the one for the state tournament. And with only a month to prepare, the team needs to work harder and quicker in order to get everything done in time. “We’re really just trying to work together to get a good case and make sure everyone’s on the same page,” said Moore.
“We’re all just sprinting, trying to get everything done. We’re working really quickly, but still trying to get that good quality of material,” said Wunsch.
The co-captains are amazed by the team’s achievements and efforts in this year’s trials so far. Four of the nine team members were inexperienced and had never participated in Mock Trial before.
“We worked super hard,” Moore said of the season. “Everyone worked really well together. And everyone’s really dedicated to it, which I thought was really awesome.”
Aiza Shaikh, a senior at EGHS, has been an EG resident since 2008. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and eating coffee ice cream.