Seniors Akilan Murugesan (standing), captain Emma Belliveau and Max Schmitz react to the results of the Feb. 24 round: the red team narrowly beat Rio Americano.

MOCK TRIAL: Black team beats Capital Mock Trial, red team beats Rio; both face familiar opponents in next round

Zoë Bowlus
Seniors Akilan Murugesan (standing), captain Emma Belliveau and Max Schmitz celebrate the results of the Feb. 24 round: the red team narrowly beat Rio Americano for the first time in years.

Both the red and black teams triumphed on Wednesday, Feb. 24, during round four. Amidst the celebration, though, they learned that their next rivals (to determine who moves on to semi-finals) will be…each other!

(Read about the case and Round 1Round 2  and Round 3 results.)

Black Team (Defense)

The black team battled Capital Mock Trial, a new team made up of home-schooled students, and won  155-143.

Coach Wayne Strumpfer said Capital had a strong “Law and Order” type of style (very dramatic), but the black team was better with evidence and the law.

The beginning of the black team’s trial was a bit strange, said junior bailiff Shriya Nadgauda because the judge appeared only 30 seconds before the trial started.

“It was fine, but we were all waiting for him,” Nadgauda said.

After the pretrials, it was time for each team to give their openings.

Nadgauda said that junior attorney John Hansen gave one of the best openings she’s ever seen.

She also praised junior attorney Jaelan Trapp’s closing.

“He did a really good job at making the defendant seem like an innocent human being, which is the opposite of what the prosecution wants,” Nadgauda said.

Strumpfer particularly noted Trapp’s  closing argument for not being scripted.

“(Trapp) gave a great closing argument that combined emotion, passion, and being in the moment,” Strumpfer said.

Indeed, Trapp was chosen MVP by the other team.

Strumpfer said Trapp and Hansen really complement each other’s style.

“Both of them are very passionate – (Hansen) is quiet and determined; (Trapp) is commanding,” Strumpfer said.

Nadgauda said the team needs to work on being more believable as witnesses.

“Adding a bit more emotion when going against dramatic teams would help score better,” she said.

Nadgauda said Capital Mock Trial was great competition.

“The other team’s witnesses were very dramatic, which made them very believable,” Nadgauda said. “But you have to be careful to not overdo it because it can look fake.”

Nadgauda said she is excited for Saturday, but disappointed that she can’t be an attorney because the red team is prosecution.

But Nadgauda said she’s excited to see what happens.

“Even though the teams have different themes and objections, we’ve been working together to an extent,” Nadgauda said. “And since we have the same teachers, our styles on objections and responses are really similar, so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.”

Red Team (Defense)

Round four took a turn in Country Day Mock Trial history, as for the first time in many years, Country Day beat Rio Americano High School, 265-258.

Captain senior Emma Belliveau said junior attorney Zane Jakobs’s pretrial was very polished compared to Rio’s.

“(Jakobs) understood the pretrial and appeared less flustered,” Belliveau said. “He also didn’t stumble in general.”

Belliveau also said the witnesses from the red team were more personable than Rio’s.

“Our team’s witnesses seemed natural and didn’t get tripped up on cross,” Belliveau said.

When Belliveau crossed one of Rio’s witnesses, the detective, she said she boxed him in.

“Rio’s witnesses try to throw you off with an unexpected answer,” Belliveau said. “He was trying to do that, but in doing so he gave me an answer that wasn’t true to his testimony.”

Senior captain Emma Belliveau and freshman Jack Christian hug following the release of the results against Rio.

Belliveau added the red team has improved at objecting.

Belliveau said she was especially proud of keeping out Exhibit B.

Exhibit B is a copy of an anonymous letter written to the campus security on April 3 that threatens the officer whom the defendant subsequently killed on May 15.

The prosecution wants to use this evidence to show that the  defendant planned the killing and therefore committed murder.

The team was able to convince the judge that the letter was inadmissible hearsay.

“Without the exhibit, the prosecution has less evidence and a weaker case,” Strumpfer said.

Along with keeping out Exhibit B, Belliveau said Country Day’s difference in demeanor helped the team.

“(Rio) tried to be very polished to the point of being kind of robotic,” Belliveau said.

Belliveau said the scoring judges advised Rio to find their own voices instead of being copies of each other.

Another thing Belliveau found strange was Rio’s tendency to constantly smile.

“It’s weird because being in trial is not a situation where you want to be smiling,” Belliveau said.

Strumpfer said the red team put it all together against Rio Americano. He also said they scored high on objections and cross examinations.

Strumpfer said the red team just keeps getting better.

“Throughout the tournament, they have faced tougher and tougher competition,” Strumpfer said. “This has actually made them stronger, so much so that they were up for the challenge against a strong Rio team last night.

“Emma gave the best performance of her high-school career.”

He also praised the achievements of witnesses senior Akilan Murugesan and freshman Gabi Alvarado, who each earned straight 5’s from the judges, the highest possible scores.

Going into the semi-final round, the black team is ranked first and the red team fourth.

Strumpfer said the coaches are now discussing how the teams can go from very good to great.

Right now they are only recognizing the small mistakes and how to correct them.

Strumpfer said freshman attorney Jack Christian tried to impeach a witness during round three, which was great, but not done correctly.

“We worked with (Christian) on the right way to do it and how to really emphasize the witness’s mistake.

But after Saturday one team will face some very experienced opponents.

“Rio (3) and Elk Grove (2) are very good teams, and these are the areas that make a difference in the semi-finals or finals against them,” Stumpfer said.

Strumpfer said all the students have an amazing future ahead of them.

“The sky’s the limit for these team members,” Strumpfer said. “(Trapp) has critical thinking skills combined with wonderful oratory talent – he commands the courtroom. This makes him a great candidate for law school if that’s what he wants to do.

“I can see him as a defense attorney down the road. I would love to see that.”

Round Five

Strumpfer said round five, on Saturday, Feb. 27, will be different from previous matches.

“Saturday is going to be very emotional,” Strumpfer said. “I will be thrilled for the winner and heartbroken for the team that doesn’t win.

“The best thing about it is we are guaranteed to have one team in the semi-finals.”

Regarding Saturday’s trial, Belliveau said she is excited to see the black team, as she has never seen it compete.

“I’m excited, but at the same time it’s really sad to go against them because I wish we could all be together and experience the same wins and losses,” Belliveau said.

“I want to be there to support them. It’s weird to knock out another team from your own school.”

—By Ulises Barajas

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