Mock trial team selected

October 30, 2009 — by Saniha Shankar and Abhi Venkataramana

Twenty hopeful students nervously sat in history teacher Margarita Morrelle’s room on Oct. 13 waiting to be called in by mock trial head coach Dr. Hugh Roberts to try out for roles on this year’s team.

For tryouts, each student had to act out the role of a prosecution attorney, defense attorney and witness based on an evidence packet that had been given out earlier. Roberts posted the team’s line-up Oct. 16, and the 17 members went straight to work the next Tuesday.

The pre-trial attorneys chosen were senior Girish Swaminath and junior Synthia Ling. The prosecution attorneys chosen were seniors Saniha Shankar and Flora Chang and junior Vijay Menon. Defense attorneys are juniors Shannon Galvin, Navneet Ramesh and Soorya Rangan. The defendant of this case will be played by freshman Rohan Cotah.

This year’s case is murder trial that involves the defendant Jordan Bratton, a comedian whose ascending career was destroyed by the harsh critique of Preston Palmer. Palmer writes a scathing review and posts the critique on a site known as Yell-Up.

Soon after, Bratton loses much of his business and can’t book a club to let him perform. On April 13, Palmer is found strangled to death on his driveway. The prosecution will set out to prove that Bratton committed the crime, while the defense will defend his innocence.

“I’m really looking forward to this year because we have a really strong team,” said Ramesh. “We just started the case, so we have a lot of work to do before now and the trial.”

The biggest change for this year’s team is the addition of Morelle as the teacher coach to replace English teacher Bill Peck. After taking on poetry after former English teacher Judith Sutton’s retirement, Peck did not have enough time to continue coaching mock trial.

The witnesses will have to learn how to assume their assigned roles and transform themselves into believable witnesses. To reach this goal, three of the witnesses who will be playing comedians will have to perform a short stand-up routine on Nov. 3. This will help them understand how it feels to be a comedian and help them learn to “become” their assigned witness, said Roberts.

The team will compete in its first invitational in January. The three months leading up to the tournament in February will be spent writing, practicing and memorizing their roles.

Roberts believes that the strengths of the team lies with “experience and a larger base of talent.” According to Roberts, in the past the main areas of weakness have been tied to objections and witness control for the attorneys and witness believability for the witnesses. To battle these areas, Roberts is planning to spend much more time until these are up to even up with the rest of the abilities.

“It really is rewarding to see how many of last year’s team came out again this year. A real loss is Mr. Peck, but his lack of time is understandable considering he took over the poetry program which is an enormous new load,” said Roberts.