Trumbull High Mock Trial team heading to nationals

Trumbull High School’s mock trial team members have argued, objected and testified their way to a national competition, beating out every other team in the state.

The team of 11 students won the High School Mock Trial State Championship, held at the Connecticut Supreme Court in Hartford Feb. 27.

Eric August, social studies teacher and mock trial team adviser, said witnessing the students win the state finals was thrilling and the competition was intense.

“These are all kids who know the rules of procedure and the rules of evidence,” August said. “Even the judges say they can’t believe these are high school students because they argue better than some real attorneys.”

Mock trial competition starts with a fake court case. Each school has to prepare to argue both sides, as the prosecution and the defense. Each side has three witnesses and three attorneys. In competition, teams go up against the opposite side of another school and judges score each team member on presentation, knowledge of facts and ability to argue, to be tallied up for a final score.

This year’s fake case involved a grandparent administering cough syrup to a 2-year-old, after getting a doctor’s approval. The child later dies. The state, in the imaginary case, is prosecuting the grandmother, while the grandmother is pointing the finger at the doctor.

The team of 11 students started working on the case in September and had three months before starting to compete.

Like any good competition, it was full of intensity, passion and a lot of quick thinking.

“Unlike other competitions where you compete on your own and then it goes by who has a higher score, this is about being in a room with another team and arguing, and who does it better,” team member Molly Stewart said. “You have to be prepared for anything.”

Molly was chosen as outstanding attorney at the state competition, winning the Bob Boland Most Outstanding Mocker Award.

Some members of the team are interested in practicing law, while others are more inclined to use their acting and argument skills. Witnesses have to be prepared to be cross-examined, and the attorneys have to be ready to object and argue based on what the other side comes up with.

“They have objection battles that last for two or three minutes, based on arguments they are creating on the fly,” August said.

Only three members of the team were veterans of the club. Every one else was new to it.

Team member Kerry Marques said joining mock trial was intimidating at first. She credits August with building a close-knit group that works together and has each other’s backs. The rest of the team agreed.

“We may be arguing before we go in that courtroom, but as soon as we sit down at that table, it stops and you work together,” Molly said.

“It’s like a family,” Christian DeGenova said.

A lot of tears of joy and group hugs followed the big win.

Preparing for nationals

This is the first time the Trumbull High team is advancing to nationals, to be held May 8-12 in Indianapolis, Ind. It is only the third team from Connecticut to compete in the national competition.

The Trumbull team started a few years ago, under the direction of August, a former attorney. He integrated mock trial into an honors Justice and Law Class. It also became a team that Trumbull’s ACE (Academic Challenge for Excellence) helps support.

On April 1, the students will receive an entirely new court case.

“We had three months to prepare with the first case; we have three weeks this time,” team member Emily Ruchalski said.

Some pressure is on, but students are looking forward to it.

Now they are coming up with fund-raising ideas to pay for the nationals trip. Those interested in helping support the team’s trip may email Eric August at