APH Students Participate in Massachusetts Mock Trial Program

Students from The Academy at Penguin Hall skillfully countered every examination and re-direct at the 32nd Annual Statewide High School Mock Trial Program. The Mock Trial Program is a challenging and rewarding experience, which provides not only a dynamic educational environment but also a rigorous and positive, real-world interaction with the law. Groups from various schools assume the roles of lawyers and witnesses in a courtroom to prosecute or defend an actual case. With volunteer lawyers serving as coaches and judges for the program, teams are awarded points based on their presentation and advance according to the points that they receive.

Our group of thirteen students diligently prepared for their case, working with faculty members Jenn Billings and Ali Souris, as well as attorneys Lyn Arcari and Andrew Caplan, an APH Trustee and APH student parent, respectively. In addition to weekly meetings, our students had the opportunity to serve as mock jurors for a case in Boston. The Mock Trial tournament began mid-January and continued through the end of March. The way that Mock Trial is structured, all teams receive the same case to prepare for presentation. This year, students received a murder case where the prosecution needed to prove that the suspect, Salazar Larsen, killed in cold blood. The other side provided Larsen’s defense.

Our Mock Trial team participated in three trials, one against Reading High School on January 23rd, one against St. John’s Preparatory School on January 30th, and the third against Bishop Fenwick on February 6th. At the first two trials, our students prosecuted against an all-male defense, even though Reading High is a co-ed school. In their most recent trial, Molly M. delivered the opening remarks, Lily A., Molly M., and Lila C., cross-examined the prosecution’s witnesses and questioned the defense’s witnesses, Fiona K. and Kathryn W. served as witnesses, and Lila C. delivered the closing remarks.

APH President, Molly Martins, attended our students’ second and third trials at Lynn District Court, relishing the opportunity to see our empowered students taking their education beyond the classroom. She and her husband Al couldn’t stop speaking about the trial upon their return to Penguin Hall. Much like a typical court case, each side presents opening arguments, delivers witnesses, cross-examines the opposing side’s witnesses, and ends with a closing argument. The acting judge then rules on the case and awards points depending on each team’s performance. Following the court case, the judge delivers constructive criticism to the students on how to continue to improve their abilities and better prosecute or defend cases in the future.

At the second trial, APH student Lila C. was the only student from either team to receive a “10,” the highest number of points possible. More importantly than the points though, was the poise with which our APH students carried themselves, as the prosecution against St. John’s Prep’s defense. Molly Martins said of the girls, “Not only were they articulate in their presentation of the case, but their interactions with the opposing team showed how much their education here is shaping them and preparing them for life beyond APH. Following the trial, all of our girls stood up, crossed over to the opposing team and shook their hands.” We are so proud of the way our students are becoming empowered young women.