It was a coin toss that decided which side they would take- prosecution or defense. They prosecuted the case, they made their argument, the other side defended the offender, and in the end they all won. The students, that is. For those considering a career in the law, Mock Trial Competitions offer invaluable experience and a taste of what’s ahead. The mock trials were held from January 16th through January 18th.
A 90-page packet containing the facts in the case and competition rules assures all students in the statewide competition have identical information. Judging is performed by real judges and attorneys, volunteering to serve as presiding and scoring judges with strict guidelines and timekeeping in place for the fairest possible outcome. The Honorable Darryl C. Casanueva, Second District Court of Appeal, presided over the final round, and local judges served in the rounds leading to the finals. Included were 20th Circuit Judges Elisabeth Adams and R. Thomas Corbin, and Lee County Judges Josephine Gagliardi and Leigh Frizzell Hayes, as well as 38 attorneys and a Mock Trial Committee of the Lee County Bar Association chaired by attorney Renee Binns that included Lee County Bar Association members and Lee County School District Administrators and teachers.
Coordinating the Lee County schools’ engagement with the Mock Trial Competitions is Social Studies Coordinator Mikie Stroh. Said Stroh,
“The Mock Trial Program is a great way to allow students to develop critical thinking and public speaking skills which are aligned with the Common Core State Standards recently adopted by the Florida Department of Education. Students must be able to think quickly and defend their arguments and decisions cited from specific textual evidence. Students currently in 7th grade are required to take a Civics course and will enter high school with knowledge of the justice system and courtroom procedures which will increase the students’ depth of understanding and the level of competition.”
The “Green Team” from Fort Myers High took first place for Lee County in the first battle in the series of competitions starting with County, then Circuit, and finally at the State level. This year marks the20th Annual Lee County Mock Trial Competition. Fort Myers High student Jessica Jocelin commented on the competition experience,“Mock Trial is one of the best programs that I have participated in. It lets me speak publicly and enjoy learning about the law. I could never have asked for a better experience!”
Standing tall in first place were Jacqueline Cloutier, Samuel Denholt, Sarah Hoffman, Sara Jackson, Masyn McMillan, Jen Nargi and Ross Pinkard, who took the Prosecution role in the case. Principal David LaRosa, Teacher Sponsor Anya Pence, and Attorney Coaches Scott Beatty, Doug Waldorf, Sara White and Peter Kamm lent their support to three teams this year from Fort Myers High.
Taking the Defense role and winning Second Place for Lee County Mock Trial were students from Ida Baker High School’s “Team 1,” James Abrams, Inae’e Aidoo, Nick Braden, Brandon Green, Bailey Manor, and Elizabeth Santiago. Third Place in the Lee County Mock Trial also went to students from Ida Baker High School, with support from Principal Melissa Robery, Teacher Sponsor Patrick Hanrahan, and Attorney Coach Chrystal Emmert.
Scholarships were also distributed by Lee County Bar Association law firms in the following categories:
Associates & Bruce L. Scheiner Scholarship for Best Prosecution Attorney: Masyn McMillan, Fort Myers High “Green Team”; Henderson Franklin Starnes & Holt, PA Scholarship for Best Defense Attorney: Allison Oliva, Bishop Verot Team;
Law Office of Karla Y. Campos-Andersen Scholarship for Best Prosecution Witness: Samantha Dalesio, Canterbury School Team; Binns Family Law Scholarship for Best Defense Witness: Brenda Chavez, Ida Baker High School
Miguel C. Fernandez III Scholarship for Best Closing Argument: Sara Jackson, Fort Myers High “Green Team”
On February 14 and 15, the Twentieth Circuit Mock Trial Competition will be held at the Lee County Justice Center, and will include student teams from Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry Counties.
The Lee County Bar Association (leebar.org) is a 501c6 not for profit organization serving the citizens and legal community of Lee County since 1949.