This year’s mock trial case eerily echoes recent headlines from a shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport—the case involves a war veteran injured in Afghanistan who returns home and shoots her former high school classmate at a Fourth of July celebration. Was this the premeditated murder of a former high school rival or the acts of a veteran in the throes of post-traumatic stress disorder who mistakenly thought she was under attack when the fireworks went off? For more than two hours, students from Concord Academy will match wits with a Lexington team during a mock trial in which the war veteran is tried for first-degree murder.
CA’s Mock Trial Club members have been hard at work since October, preparing their arguments, learning criminal law, and practicing with their witnesses. Three students play the role of attorneys, assisted by students who portray the witnesses. For every trial, the Concord Academy team has to prepare both an opening and a closing, as well as prepare questions for witnesses for cross-examinations. The courtroom is set up in much the way it would be for a real trial, complete with an actual judge and dress code. This year’s team is co–chaired by seniors Linc Berkley and Shannon Sun and a host of returning students and many new freshmen. Veterans of the mock trial competition, the co-chairs have offered assistance to new club members regarding how to prepare, respond to objections, introduce evidence, and create persuasive opening and closing arguments.
CA club members enjoy the team work, quick thinking and strategy that is involved in successful mock trial tournaments. Students anticipate themes of their opponent’s case and discuss whether to deal with a negative piece of evidence upfront, before a witness is cross-examined, or omit it, hoping it is a smaller point that will not turn the case against their client. This year’s case has encouraged students to think deeply about health care for war veterans, mental heath services generally, and evaluating culpability for criminal conduct.
Supported by the Office of Student Life’s Kevin Parker and assisted by Newton attorney Kelly Bonnevie P’18, the club met weekly to review arguments for and against the fictional veteran. The CA Mock Trial Club will serve as prosecutors in their next match, after which they will switch sides to defend the veteran. The Chameleons are currently 1-0 and stand ready to press their next case.