The THHS Mock Trial Team advances to Quarterfinals

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Over the course of the spring semester, the Townsend Harris Mock Trial team scored multiple victories in a series of trial simulations run by the New York State Bar Association. THHS advanced as far as the quarterfinals of the competition, where they defeated numerous high schools across the city before losing to James Madison High School. 

During the competition, the team participated in fictional criminal cases, playing the role of attorneys, defendants, and witnesses. The attorneys are either prosecutors who attempt to prove the defendant guilty or defense who must prove the defendant innocent. Both the prosecutor and the defense have the ability to call forth witnesses that can support their argument. In preparation for the trial, the team practiced under the counsel of lawyers from the Katten law firm. 

Grace Yang (senior), Benjamin Babayev (junior), and Brynna Quigley (sophomore) were the prosecution team tasked with proving the defendant’s guilt. The Defense team Emily Li (junior), Kailiya Gavlin (junior), and Andre Chen (senior) led the defense team which needed to prove the defendant’s innocence. Prosecution witnesses Philip Ha (senior), Gabriella Fusco (junior), and Carolina Corcuera (sophomore), as well as defense witnesses Audrey Chou (senior) and Elliot Heath (junior), who are editors of The Classic, and Julia Chang (sophomore), had to present their testimony in a non-biased but clear manner.

The trial, the People of the State of New York v. Shawn Miller, surrounded a fictional defendant accused of conspiracy and securities fraud. The prosecution and defense put forth their arguments in a string of competitions held through Zoom calls. 

Reflecting on the team’s success, Andre, one of the team captains, said, “I think it all had to do with being more prepared than the other team: frequent practice, knowing how to respond to a variety of situations, and just a deeper and clearer understanding of the intricacies of the facts and question of the case.” 

Prosecution attorney Brynna also said, “our team performed super well, everyone was very prepared, and all played their role perfectly… I think our team’s knowledge about the case and about law in general allowed us to win.” 

After advancing again to the next stage of the competition on March 30, the team was able to reach the round of 16, where they competed for the first time in front of a federal judge on Tuesday, April 5th. Despite this new challenge, The Mock Trial team were able to defeat Browning School, a private all-boys school. Reflecting on the performance, Coach Siobhan Brand described it: “I think they performed really well, given the circumstances of not only having to practice remotely, but also having to compete virtually.” 

The team’s competition journey ultimately ended on April 26 when James Madison’s Mock Trial prosecution team defeated THHS who played the role of the defense. Ms. Brand expressed both her confidence in the mock trial team and her belief that there is still room to improve. She said that the members “were very well-versed in their rules and procedures,” however noted how in the future, they could “hone in on a higher order of thinking, and maybe take their openings and closings to the next level.”

Photo by Kate Romero, Photography Editor