Earlier this year, Malden High’s Mock Trial Team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in the team’s history. The trial they competed with was United States vs Nat Hart. On April 30th, the Mock Trial team held a showcase at Malden High where they presented the trial to attendees.
According to Senior Vivian Dang, the trial revolves around two men named Grey Humansky and Nat Hart. Humansky is an activist for refugees from the fictitious country Tanerbia. However, he is also involved in illicit activity. Hart is an officer from the fictional town of Gavish. Hart encounters Humansky one night and prepares to arrest him due to a warrant issued for Humansky. The situation turns sour as Hart pulls out his gun and shoots Humansky as Hart believed he was under the influence, causing Hart to fear for his safety. However, Hart did not actually shoot Humansky--he shot Humansky’s identical cousin, Ray Lugansky. Hart, the defendant in this trial, is accused of shooting an innocent man.
Dang acted as an attorney for the prosecution and also cross-examined the main witness on defense, Hart himself. While she did enjoy the experience of playing a crucial role like an attorney, she did face some challenges. One of them was trying to get into the character of a prosecutor. It was difficult for Dang to “imagine [herself] to dislike” officier Hart. She explains that she had to remember that while Hart did have many achievements, he was “still on trial” for manslaughter. Another cross-examiner was sophomore Jacob Pettigrew. He also encountered some troubles, as his role called for Pettigrew to “take apart a witness’ story” with the “extreme” level of detail required.
Dang also collaborated with Senior Jenny Chen, who also acted as an attorney for the prosecution. While Chen had two other roles throughout the trial, her responsibility that was “originally and ultimately [hers]” was to deliver the closing arguments. For Chen, the challenge lied in her speech. The closing remarks are meant to be “well-composed and eloquent” along with being “persuasive enough to sway a judge.” The task of “fitting an entire case’s important content into a seven minute speech” was demanding for Chen. She adds that a well-done closing has the ability to “secure the decision” of a judge or jury that may be indecisive. However, an “exceptionally well-done closing” can change the opinion of someone who was originally going to vote the other way. With that being said, creating a speech that completely changed the audience and win the trial regardless of performance points was “always the goal” for Chen, and she hopes she has achieved it.
While this year’s showcase was special due to their achievement during the season, the Mock Trial team has been showcasing their trials yearly. Showcasing them is a way for the team to show the school their accomplishments, according to Dang. Chen adds that it is also a “perfect way” for for the team to not only finish their school year and the season, but to also show everyone what they have worked “so hard on for months.” The showcases allow other MHS students to “see what the class yields.”
The overall experience for the members was enjoyable, as it did not necessarily demand the same stressors or high standards the competitions usually bring. Dang shares a tradition that the Mock Trial team does before each trial. They play the monologue speech from the film Miracle, which is based on the unexpected win by the U.S Men’s Hockey team in a match against the former-Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Dang explains that they dub the words of the speech; instead of “hockey players” and “Soviets,” they say “attorneys” and “mock trial.” She calls it an “intimate moment” and never fails to be “inspirational.”
Chen jokes that she had forgotten how long the trial is, adding that the showcase made her realize how much she “love[s] doing her closing” and “getting the last word.” As a way to prepare, the team practiced in the routines they do for their usual competitions. The practices, according to Pettigrew, have become “second nature” to him by the time of the showcase. Chen ensured that her speech was in the utmost condition by listening to a voice memo of her speech, so she can “pick out” the aspects she did not like and “fix them and keep improving.”
Pettigrew’s favorite part of the night was his own cross-examination. He feels that it allowed him to display the “culmination” of his work throughout the year. For Dang, she recalls a moment where Grey Humansky plead the Fifth Amendment. The invocation is not typically used in competition, she mentions it was obvious to her that he used it “for the sake of comedy.” She considers the small moments like that being what “helps [them] strive for victory in a competition.”
Chen’s favorite part was the verdict. She divulges that she “may be biased,” since the prosecution won the trial. She also adds that she also enjoyed the “socializing” that occurred after the show and the impromptu “photo-shoot.” She emphasizes that the team was “so happy and so proud” as they deserved to be. The showcase was the celebration of a season and she feels honored to have been part of it.