By Dave Hill ’17
The judge walks into the courtroom, and everyone rises.
The prosecution presents their case as to why Miss Taylor Edsel is guilty of arson, while the defense will do everything in their power to keep Taylor from going behind bars. One may imagine this to be a large court case at the courthouse in Philadelphia or a scene from Law and Order, Boston Legal, or any other of the law shows from the small screen; however, this is actually the case being presented by the Ridley Mock Trial team at the Media courthouse.
The team competes against other schools in the area to present the best case possible, with both a prosecution argument and defense argument crafted. The team has now moved onto the playoff round and will compete again.
This year’s Ridley Mock Trial team consists of lawyers Samantha Avila. Brian Felter, Noah Finsterbusch, David Hill, Mark Kapran, and Samantha Wright, as well as witnesses Josh Leake, Madison Reilly, Lexie Sheridan, Brooke Wiley, and Seth Zurlo. The team competed in more than just the two first round trials this year. While this is not the first time Ridley has made it into the Mock Trial playoffs, this year is just another example of how preparation can lead to success.
The case presented by one of the more than 300 mock trials teams in Pennsylvania this year is the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Taylor Edsel. Miss Edsel, portrayed by Samantha Avila in trials, is accused of burning down the fictional Nash Electromotive Facility in Wisawe, Pennsylvania. With a history of arson, Taylor was seen as an immediate suspect after being found near the burning plant.
The case is not so simple however. Different aspects of the case are meant to provide reasonable doubt, the barrier the prosecution must overcome in their case. Miss Edsel spent several years reforming from her arsonist ways, while possible business rivals are present that would want to see the Nash plant go up in flames.
In the the first trial of the year, Ridley’s prosecution team defeated a team from Penn Wood High School. A few weeks later, the defense side for Ridley defeated the team from Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast High School.
At each trial, awards are given for Best Advocate (lawyer) and Best Witness. In the first trial, Samantha Avila was given the award for best advocate and Seth Zurlo was given the award for best witness. In the second trial, Mark Kapran was given the award for best advocate, while Madison Reilly was given the award for best witness.
Mr. Chris Seymore, the club sponsor, says that Mock Trial is great to explore one’s interest in law and to improve public speaking skills. Several members of Ridley Mock Trial have had successful careers in law.
Mr. Seymore, who has now sponsored the team for 15 years, has worked hard with this team to improve their case, including working on the burden of proof and opening and closing arguments. As the team moves forward, the key is to see what worked well and what can improve. In the past, teams coached by Seymore have made it to the finals, as well as to the semifinals on two occasions.
“I enjoy it, and I’m glad I’m able to use my law degree,” Mr. Seymore stated. “This team is made up of a lot of great students.”
On March 3, the prosecution team from Ridley lost against Delco Christian in an extremely close trial. Congrats to the team for a great season, and good luck to members returning next year.