West's Mock Trial team rests its case

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After an undefeated season leading them into the semifinals, the Cranston High School West Mock Trial team has finally rested its case after a defeat last week at the hands of The Wheeler School.

The West team competed in three regular season trials and two playoff trials.

“We’ve never had this level of success, ever, and have never made it past the first round of the semifinals,” faculty advisor Peter Buonfiglio said.

Kathryn Terceiro, Sanah Feroz, Eden Ladouceur, Juliana Ferranti and Matthew Perrotta gathered to share their thoughts on the team’s season – which began at the end of August – prior to the semifinal round in March. They spoke of the preparatory work that takes place from the moment that Marcy Cohen, a lawyer and parent volunteer, sends them their case for the season.

“Marcy sends us the case in late August, early September, and we start reading the file over. We consider the charges, the witnesses and the themes of the case,” Terceiro said. “Then we all sit down together and the witnesses decide who they want to be and the lawyers form their direct lines of questioning.”

Buonfiglio said the case can be civil or criminal in nature, but that it is the same case argued and won or lost throughout the entire process, with the team alternating between being the prosecution or the defense from trial to trial. Three witnesses and three lawyers are chosen.

“We have to figure out our opening statement, our direct and cross-examinations, and our closing statements,” Ferranti said. “The whole trial takes two hours.”

Ladouceur said the scoring is done based on the lawyers’ cross-examinations and direct questioning, and lawyers’ statements are scored as well. The scoring is done by the presiding judge at the time, someone who is a judge by day as well. The trials all take place in real courtrooms, with the final round taking place at the Supreme Court.

“We use the comments that are given to us at the end to improve our cases for the next round,” Terceiro said.

The students also paid close attention to what that the other teams said in the courtroom, gathering new ideas for their own strategy for the next round.

Cohen said she is proud of the team’s hard work and dedication. She hosted the team on the weekends for extra practice time, but the members also met after school almost every day except Fridays.

“This year the team worked really hard,” Cohen said. “They memorized everything.”

The students emphasized that for a group of young adults who have no actual law training, the process is can be intimidating.

“It’s a real courtroom with real judges,” Ferranti said.

For each of them, their experiences on the Mock Trial team have had an impact on their future in some way.

“I didn’t start out wanting to pursue law,” Ladouceur said. “I first applied to colleges for forensic science, but at two of the schools I applied for law and I am considering Roger Williams University for law.”

Feroz would like to be a detective working for the FBI and joined the Mock Trial team for that reason.

“It was the closest thing to the judicial side of the profession,” she said. “It really made me consider law. When you go to trial, you are really in a courtroom in front of judges. You have an unknown audience.”

Terceiro felt that joining the team would help her to work on her public speaking, and she can see a connection to her future ambition as an engineer, given the patent work that takes place in that field.

Ferranti knew that as a doctor in the medical profession, lawsuits are often part of the job, but she did not realize that law and medicine connect in other ways as well.

“I could be an expert witness as a doctor,” she said. “My career path hasn’t changed with Mock Trial, but I am open to the idea of the legal aspect of that profession.”

Perrotta used his Mock Trial experiences to narrow down his career interests.

“I started back in my freshman year considering going into law, but I think that now I am more interested in genetics,” he said.

The members of the team agree that the skills they have utilized during their trials will be lifelong assets, including public speaking and thinking on their feet.

Cranston West Principal Tom Barbieri said he is proud of the team and thankful for the adults who helped to get them through a challenging trial season and to the semifinals.

“I am very proud of this team,” he said. “I am very fortunate to have a great teacher and a great parent volunteer. It’s a great combination and they’ve been able to have a very successful season.”

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