Ridge Road can rest its case. The middle school’s Mock Trial team is officially tops in the state.
The team won the 2013 state championship Jan. 11 in Cary, topping 29 other schools and taking home two individual awards as well: Seventh-grader Mackenzie Hall was named most effective attorney, and seventh-grader Jayla Joyner was chosen most effective witness.
Schools get a “case,” based on a real court case (with names and some key details changed), to study at the beginning of the season. Students and coaches are given the indictment, scientific evidence, affidavits from witnesses, autopsies and the like, then construct a courtroom-style presentation from the standpoint of both the prosecution and the defense. In competition, a school’s prosecution goes up against another school’s defense, and vice versa. Attorneys score student performances and declare winners; the competition is sponsored by the N.C. Bar Association.
Kids auditioned at Ridge Road for roles on the 16-member team: four attorneys and three witnesses on each side, plus a bailiff and a timekeeper. Witnesses “testify” in their own words, but must stay within the facts of the affidavits their characters gave. During the presentation, students can construct different interpretations of what happened.
This year’s middle school case dealt with a track athlete who died. The track coach was accused of refusing to let the team get water during practice, leading to the student’s death. Evidence showed – and “the students figured this out before we did!” said coach Katelyn Collishaw – the student was taking a medication known to dehydrate, and hadn’t listed it on his medical form.
Collishaw, one of the team’s three coaches, said student Kendall Dixon was particularly good at finding holes in both sides of the case, while Jayla’s star turn as witness wasn’t surprising: She won the same award last year at the Western regional championship. (There wasn’t a statewide competition last year.) “She played the role of the accused, and she seems to really be able to defend that person but also humanize (the role), so they really feel for her.”
Mackenzie, as top attorney, “is very good on the cross-examination side, making sure she gets what she wants them to say and then sits down. She knows when not to push too hard.”
Ridge Road won the Western regional qualifier in December. The other two coaches are Kevin McKenna and Kendall Hallingse.
McKee Road Elementary also won a state title. The team of about 25 third-graders in Melissa Williams’ literacy class studied the case – about a boy who went to the circus with his family, got too close to an elephant backstage and fell, breaking his arm. (The family sued the circus.) They then wrote a script for a trial and videotaped it in the classroom. Their video won in competition, scoring them a handheld video camera as prize.