No argument, Trumbull mock trial team is tops in state
If Ariana Rojas was nervous, no one knew it but her. The Trumbull High senior captain glanced at the state Supreme Court justices, took a deep breath, and delivered a closing argument that delivered Trumbull High a mock trial state championship.
“I was definitely very nervous at the start, but once I got in there and started, I lost the sense of where I was,” she said. “I almost forgot I was speaking in front of the state Supreme Court.”
Rojas and the rest of the mock trial team recently argued their case in front of three Supreme Court justices, who served as judges for the competition, said social studies teacher Eric August, the faculty moderator and coach.
“In mock trial academic competitions, students are given a legal case, but they have to be prepared to argue both sides because they don’t know if they are the plaintiffs or the defendants.”
In the state finals against Ridgefield, the students played the role of plaintiffs, representing the fictitious D.W. Holstein, whose equally fictitious bull, Dude, had been struck by a car. Trumbull argued that the driver, Toni Jersey, was liable for the loss of Dude.
“There were three witnesses for each side, also played by students,” August said. The two sides argued for most of the afternoon, and August said the outcome was too close to call until Ariana stepped to the mic to deliver the closing argument.
“I really believe she won the case for us,” he said. “It was the equivalent of a walk-off win in baseball.”
Ariana said as closing attorney, she had to tie the case together, focusing on witness testimony. This is more complicated than it sounds, though, since the witnesses, played by Ridgefield students, had prepared their own testimony.
“I had to adjust my argument on the fly depending on what they said,” Ariana said.
The win was Trumbull’s third state title, but the first since 2014.
The mock trial team consists of students in the Honors Justice and Law class, and August said the team began preparing back in October. Other team members are Dylan Koury, Olivia Bonaventura, Dominic Martire, Craig Haber, Gabi Kwiatkowski, Isha Dalal, Olivia Ballaro, Vanessa Woods, and Alice Merville.
Ariana said she has been on the team for three years, but this was her first time participating in the state finals. The experience may have been life-changing, or at least career path-altering.
“My parents aren’t attorneys, even though my dad is into debate,” she said. “I had always enjoyed public speaking; if it weren’t for mock trial, I never would have realized I like researching and arguing cases.”