Familiar champions, P.S. 71 claimed victory at the 21st annual Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition.
Thursday, June 14, the final day of the competition, kicked off with much fervor at the Bronx Supreme Court.
The pool of over 20 schools from all five boroughs and Westchester County was narrowed down to the final four teams after almost six weeks of competing.
These final four teams, St. Angela Merici against the The Epiphany School and Annunciation School against Preparatory Academy at P.S./M.S. 71, squared off for the chance to be the best of the seventh and eighth grade divisions, in one last mock trial.
While last year’s P.S. 71 team claimed the eighth grade trophy, it was their seventh graders this year who were in the running for the title.
The seventh graders from P.S. 71 acted as the defense with the prosecution coming from students of the Annunciation School in Yonkers to square off in a mysterious murder case.
As the tweens filled courtroom 600, with teachers and parents in tow, they immediately switched from just seventh graders to full blown attorneys.
“I felt focused, but a little nervous,” said 12-year old Gabriella John one of the defense attorneys from P.S. 71 of her experience.
The three student prosecutors and defense attorneys ran the trial like any other: making opening statements, closing arguments, questioning and cross examining witnesses, presenting evidence and filing motions before the presiding Bronx Supreme Court Justices Robert E. Torres and Alexander W. Hunter Jr.
“At first, I didn’t think I was doing well,” said Gabriella’s teammate, Tatiana Morgan. “I just tried to regain my confidence through the trial and worked harder.”
Though each school had its directive side, other students filled the roles of witnesses and jury, ultimately deciding on the fate of the accused in the case.
For the seventh grade division, the jury voted the accused murderer not guilty, therefore ruling in favor of the defense.
Tatiana, Gabriella, and the rest of their peers in the competition claimed the title as the first seventh grade defense team to win the competition from P.S. 71.
Most mock trials are scripted, however, the mock trial coach at P.S. 71 said he trained his team differently.
Instead, he taught the students, all of whom were new to mock trials, to think on their feet and do what real lawyers would do, according to coach Michael Frishman.
“I couldn’t be prouder of them,” said Frishman, who also coaches the high school Mock Trial Club at Cardinal Spellman High School.
“I think I had about 12 panic attacks through the trial, but truthfully these kids are accustomed to quick thinking at this point,” he added on how he felt watching his students perform in front of Bronx Supreme Court justices.
The Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition was started in 1997 by Bronx Supreme Court Civil Term judge, Elizabeth A. Taylor.
Though the actual competition started the first week of May, all the students participating had been meeting with professional attorneys for several months prior, learning about the legal and judicial system as well as trial and court procedures.
The Epiphany School from Manhattan won the eighth grade division.