Hard work pays off for successful Mock Trial team

Junior Sonali Dasari gives her opening statement at an online Mock Trial competition.

Divy Bose | The Chronicle

The Mason High School (MHS) Mock Trial team has made it to the State Championship after two years. 

A mock trial team is made up of students who practice law, public speaking and decision making. Members are responsible for arguing a different case, each one having occurred in history, for each competition that they attend. A case has two sides, including the defendant’s side, which is the student who is being accused, then the relator’s side, which is the side that is doing the suing of the trial. The relator is, in other words, the “plaintiff” in the case, which is the person who argues their case against the court of law. Each side has an attorney that defends their side of the case, hoping to receive a win for their argument. Featuring cross-examinations of witnesses and the ability to make accusations at any point during the questioning, the cases are evaluated by “judges” who are lawyers themselves or have a law background.

Since October of 2021, the MHS team has been looking to the Ohio Mock Trial State Championship as their motivation and end goal. Following the After-District competitions, the team advanced to the regional competition. In preparation for regionals, members continued to revise and improve their cases based on the feedback they received from previous competitions. From there, they advanced to go onto the State Championship over Zoom on March 9, 2022.

Junior Sonali Dasari has been an attorney for the team since her freshman year. She has spent hours on end after school working for the team, alongside junior Risha Chada. Dasari said that she and Chada have put their utmost effort into their road to the state competition by speaking with lawyers to help advise them on where to take their next steps in order to make their case stronger.

“We get the feedback and revise our case right away,” Dasari said. “Time is of the essence, so we try to make our weak points stronger as quickly as possible.” 

With the ongoing pandemic, two members decided to not participate in Districts, forcing the two attorneys, Chada and Dasari, to take over those roles in a matter of ten days. Team mentor and MHS teacher Patricia George has been coaching the team for eight years, but said that she has never seen the leadership be this impressive, so motivated toward taking the team up a notch. 

“They’re just such good competitors and so dedicated,” George said. “They know what it takes to win and they’re going to do it.”

Behind the scenes of a mock trial argument, there are many sleepless nights and hours of skillful memorization required to become fully acquainted with what the case consists of, making the title of a State Champion that much more rewarding. Junior Ananya Boreddy is a returning mock trial member. She said that knowing the extensive details of a case is what majorly contributes to her success during each mock trial hearing.

“The late nights of memorizing are for the feelings during the trial and after,” Boreddy said. “I 

know how rewarding the result can be, so my best contribution is what I owe to my team.” 

From starting as an attorney her freshman and sophomore year to a first-year witness, Boreddy learned how to adapt to different memorization techniques to stay a step ahead. As a witness, Boreddy said that she tries to give the best possible answers to the questions that are thrown at her, but that she can only go off of what she knows.

“There’s no time to think and it’s nearly impossible to think clearly during the competitions we attend,” Boreddy said. “Trusting your gut and instincts is always the best bet, since letting down the team is not an option.”

Just as nerves are a huge part of participating in a mock trial competition, so is the actual setting of the event. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions, students have to call in on Zoom and perform the case virtually, in unfamiliar territory. While her team was on call, Dasari said that it was an abnormal environment for the team as a whole, since they would normally compete in an actual courtroom.

“The flow is a lot more natural in a courtroom, rather than on a call that can experience technological difficulties or people getting cut out,” Dasari said. “It’s almost just an awkward experience, having to talk to the attorney on the other side of the camera when it could be face to face.”

Being forced to adapt to unprecedented changes has caused unique stressors and various alterations in the usual precedents followed for mock trial competitions. Despite these challenges, however, George said that the students on the team have worked harder than ever, blowing even her biggest expectations out of the water.

“I truly could not have asked for more from these kids,” George said. “We really do have the dream team.”

Photo by Risha Chada