Senior co-captain Nihal Gulati calms his nerves before the March 7 Sacramento County Mock Trial Final against Elk Grove High School. The Cavs lost 607-605. (Photo by Adam Akins)

Country Day’s Mock Trial team achieves historic second place finish

After a close trial on Mar. 7, the Country Day Mock Trial team earned second place in the Gordon D. Schaber County Tournament. 

That evening, the team argued for the defense, facing Elk Grove High School in the championship final trial.

The trial, held at the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse in Sacramento, was historic, marking the third time Country Day entered the finals in school history.

Mock Trial is a competition that simulates court trials. Each trial is judged by four attorney scorers, two of which voted for each team in the finals.

The teams then compared the overall points earned throughout the trial, with Country day losing 607-605 points.

Country Day’s close score impressed team coach Rick Lewkowitz.

“It’s unusual to get that close, winning or losing,” Lewkowitz said.

Such frustratingly close results were proof of how well the team did, he said.

“They worked hard. I was very happy because I’d felt that they had come far enough to earn that ability to challenge for the championship,” Lewkowitz said.

This season’s case revolved around the death of Erik Smith, who was bitten by a snake in his mailbox. The prosecution argued that Jamie Cobey, his tenant, was responsible for the crime. 

The motive? Only days before Smith’s death, Smith turned off the power to Cobey’s home, leading to the death of his elderly mother, who relied on an oxygen machine. 

Grace Zhao and co-captains senior Sanjana Anand and junior Rod Azghadi were lead attorneys for prosecution, with Samhita Kumar as the pretrial attorney. 

Junior co-captain Jacob Chand was Angel Russell, who saw the moment of the bite; Kumar was the arresting officer, Deputy Toni Garrett; junior Samrath Pannu was retired lawyer Terry Edwards and senior co-captain Nihal Gulati was medical examiner Dr. Charlie Dunn.

Sophomore Eshaan Dhaliwal acted as the team’s clerk, keeping time for all proceedings.

However, the defense argued this was simply nature running its course and the snake naturally entered the mailbox.

On the defense, Zhao and Kumar were attorneys.

The four witnesses called were Gulati as herpetologist Dr. Tyler Clay, Azghadi as neighbor Dani Emling, Chand as friend of the defendant Francis Yazzie and freshman Radha Chauhan as Cobey.

Junior Ryan Paul was the team’s bailiff, while Dhaliwal was the unofficial timer for the defense.

The pretrial issue this year — argued before the main trial — dealt with the Fourth Amendment.

Smith had previously placed a camera in his backyard that captured footage of Cobey’s backyard; the defense argued this was an unconstitutional search and footage should be suppressed. 

The team also had several students earn individual awards. Co–captain senior Nihal Gulati, co–captain junior Jacob Chand and freshman Chauhan all won Best Witness awards, which is given to the 20 highest–scoring witnesses throughout the competition.

Zhao and Kumar both earned Best Attorney awards, which are presented to the 20 best–scoring attorneys.

Lewkowitz praised Zhao’s abilities as an attorney. 

“Grace is very methodical. She’s very thorough. She works hard to make sure she can anticipate everything that can reasonably be anticipated,” Lewkowitz said.

 Kumar was also awarded the team’s MVP and MVP in three of four preliminary rounds and the quarterfinals. Zhao was awarded MVP in the semifinal trial and Gulati was awarded MVP in the second preliminary round.

Lewkowitz commended Kumar on her consistent excellence and her ability to think on her feet.

“Sam (Kumar) is always well prepared but she really has a knack for adapting to new things that arise during the trial,” Lewkowitz said.

Kumar praised her teammates and coaches for their hard work.  “I know everyone put in a lot of work, especially the coaches,” she said. “Everyone’s really done as much as they can.”

— By Ishaan Sekhon

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