Sophomore witness Saheb Gulati, portraying defense expert Jade Marquez, testifies about the valuation of a stolen signet ring. (Photo by Anika Nadgauda)

SCDS Mock Trial heads to state finals after historic county performance

Country Day’s mock trial team will compete in the state finals after triumphing over Elk Grove High School at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County competition.

The Cavaliers took two ballots to Elk Grove’s one and earned a score of 505-504.

The Feb. 15 trial was the fourth time the team has gone to finals and the second time the team has won the county competition since SCDS formed its team in 2005. Last year, Elk Grove beat Country Day in the finals of the county competition with tied ballots and a score of 607-605.

Mock Trial is a competition that simulates court trials. Each trial is judged by three scorers, two of whom voted for Country Day and one who voted for Elk Grove this year.

Junior co-captain Grace Zhao was amazed by the team’s performance.

“It feels great to win this year,” she said. “We worked so, so hard. We were in a much better place in terms of preparation this year despite the number of new members to the team.”

Zhao credited the team’s dedication and confidence as big factors in the finals.

“We had a lot of new people trying new positions who were always super dedicated to their positions. Personally, I had much more confidence this year,” Zhao said.

The finals were held in the ceremonial courtroom. 

Zhao said the experience was incredible. “It is the biggest courtroom in the entire courthouse. It’s used for ceremonies like its name suggests. The open space in front of the judge, which we call the well, was massive. There was a lot of space in the room, so we had to make sure we were loud,” Zhao said.

Freshman Ike Reynen said a highlight of the finals was Zhao’s opening statement, which scored perfect 10s in the finals.

“She completely blew the prosecution away with her opening. All that was left in my mind was how Grace delivered her opening and her presence while speaking,” he said.

This season’s case covered the story of two actors and roommates, Billie Scher and Jordan Franks, who were performing on a cruise ship. 

One day, Scher caught Franks trying to steal his ring, which had belonged to William Shakespeare, who Franks admired. This led to an altercation that resulted in Franks’s breaking Scher’s arm.

The prosecution charged Franks with battery, petty theft, grand theft and robbery. The defense claimed that Franks was merely removing his cell phone — which resembled the ring box — from the room.

The pretrial motion in this year’s case concerned an unlawful search and seizure of a document found in Franks’ safe. The defense alleges Franks’ consent was coerced and therefore involuntary.

The awards ceremony followed the trial. Country Day had another strong performance, winning awards in every category. 

These awards were:

  • Best Clerk: freshman Anisha Mondal
  • Best Bailiff: freshman Rehan Afzal
  • Best Prosecution Pretrial Attorney: sophomore Saheb Gulati
  • Best Defense Pretrial Attorney: senior Garman Xu
  • Top Witnesses: junior co-captain Grace  Zhao, freshman Ike Reynen, sophomore Garrett Xu
  • Top Attorneys: junior co-captain Grace Zhao, senior co-captain Samhita Kumar, senior Shakhzoda Khodjakhonova
  • Team MVP: senior co-captain Samhita Kumar

Reynen was stunned when he was awarded the best witness award.

“I was in shock. I got this huge rush of dopamine and I was overjoyed. I was completely ecstatic. Everyone was clapping and cheering for me. I was totally overthrown by the moment,” Reynen said.

Coach Rick Lewkowitz praised Garman Xu’s performance and composure in his pretrial arguments.

“I was very impressed with Garman Xu,” he said. He worked hard to improve his pretrial arguments and he did very well against a tough opponent. His analytical skills have always been really good, but he has to deliver them in an interesting way to the judges. Not only does he understand the material extremely well, but he understands the nuance of it, so he’s ready to answer the judges’ questions.”

Lewkowitz also highlighted Kumar’s closing arguments for both the prosecution and defense.

“Sam is just a very good competitor. She understands the material. Her presentation skills are very good. She’s a great leader for the team. She worked hard to improve her closing arguments, and it showed on Wednesday night,” he said.

Lewkowitz also praised the entire team.

“I’m very proud of the students. They just kept working hard. They earned this victory,” he said.

— By Ishaan Sekhon

Originally published in the March 9 edition of The Octagon

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