In a manner of speaking, Millennium Charter Academy’s participation in the third annual Justice Iredell Middle School Mock Trial tournament was all trial and very little error for the group.
According to team advisers Mike Drury and Toby Bunton, the team again returned to the courtroom and enjoyed a good showing, being awarded “Best Witness” for two team members. Information from the sponsors of the tournament, The Law-Related Education Advisory Committee of the North Carolina Bar Association Foundation, indicates three regional champions and the top overall scoring team will be selected and teams will be contacted by today (Dec. 12.)
Bunton explained these four teams will advance to the state championship that is set for Jan. 11 at the N.C. Bar Center in Cary. He said the academy has fielded teams in the past for this tournament. Students named as best witnesses were Andrew Burchiu and Abby Spencer.
“We really wanted to get the students involved in something that would teach them teamwork and foster research skills towards success,” said Bunton. “When they asked me (to coach the team) I said yes. Then I want straight to Mike because of his organizational skills.” He explained when he was in school he had been involved with college (quiz) bowl competitions and wanted to coach a team in a sport that was strongly academic.
Drury said he liked the way the mock trial format allows students “to argue without argument at all” and that the tournament requires its participants to research and learn what they have looked up. He said the tournament is set up just like a courtroom with six attorney’s acting as jurors.
“Students must research a fictional case that is based on real events,” added Bunton. “This year the case involved a high school coach charged with involuntary manslaughter for pushing a member of the track team to practice without a water break. The fictional track runner was on medication and collapsed and died.”
Academy students practiced after school for the mock trial by taking on the roles of the defense, prosecution and witnesses.
“Abby cried on the stand,” recounted Drury. “She portrayed the mother of the boy who died. That was total improvisation on her part.”
Bunton said the team had talked about doing something like that but he didn’t think they would go through with it. He stressed that participants had to really drill on the information and the witnesses had to memorize their script for testifying.
“What really helped me was Laura (Browne) helping me get ready to testify,” said Spencer. “She’s really good in action so she helped me get into character and put some emotion into it.”
Browne said they counted on the judges getting board after a day of listening to routine testimony and were hoping seeing some action would be appropriate and grab their attention.
“I’ve always liked acting,” said Browne. “this was my third year at the mock trials even though in the past I was a victim who’d been stalked. This year I was a defense attorney. We had to really argue the case.
Burciu said being a defendant was a new experience for him.
“I was charged with manslaughter,” said Burchiu. “You had to really study the material so I knew what to say and it was difficult to react because I didn’t know what qualities I wanted to get across right. When I was questioned by us it was easier because I knew what the questions would be.”
Browne said members of the team would argue the case at lunch and after really applying herself to studying the details she reached a point where she was ready to take “a leap of faith which is what lawyers are supposed to do.”
“I really believe it wasn’t his ( the defendant’s) fault,” said Browne. All students interviewed said the mock trial did not leave them with a bad impression of what happens in a courtroom. They said it showed them how important it is to get adequate representation.
Academy students participating on the team included Laura Browne, Miriam Bullins, Andrew Burchiu, Monica Burchiu, Courtney Busick, Riley Cullen, Cooper Nester, Anna Sapp, Sarah Shepherd, Abby Spencer, Calista Tomchick, Lindley Williams and Blake Wolfe.
Teams representing 24 schools statewide competed in the tournament, which was held in ten courthouses and 15 courtrooms. A total of 475 students were involved in the effort with more than 600 people participating in the event. The academy’s team faced off against Brown Summit Middle and Northern Middle of Greensboro in the Guilford County courthouse in High Point.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.