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MOCK TRIAL COMPETITION PROVIDES IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

     Delaware’s annual mock trial competition provides high school students with a chance to learn more about the justice system, as well as to develop a number of important life-time skills. The program, which is co-sponsored by the Delaware Judiciary and the Delaware Law Related Education Center, with funding from the DuPont Company and the Delaware State Bar Association, also selects one team as the winner who will compete in national competition.

Photo of the 2006 Mock Trial  Competition Winners
Justice Carolyn Berger, Justice Henry duPont Ridgely and Superior Court Judge Joseph R. Slights, IIII, are pictured with the members of the Charter School of Wilmington, the 2006 Delaware Mock Trial Champions.

Left to right: Dasha Galperin, Eddie Kearns , Helen Tang, Ben Wallace, Justice Berger, Justice Ridgely, Judge Slights, Michelle Barineau, Shaun Kelly, Deji Ogunnaike, Ian Burn.

     What goes into preparing a high school team to excel in this arena? According to Chief Prosecutor for
New Castle County, Paul Wallace, who (along with head coach Michael Clarke of the DuPont Company and faculty advisor Robin Lober) coached the Charter School of Wilmington team, this year’s state winner, there is a lot of hard work involved. His team devoted many hours after school and on weekends to such tasks as reviewing the facts of the case, learning about the rules of evidence, and discussing ethical concerns. All of this, according to Mr. Wallace, amounted to an incredible civics lesson for team members. In addition, Mr. Wallace, whose son, Ben, was one of the team members, praised the overall experience as being extremely beneficial to all participating students whether or not they have a specific interest in the law as a future profession. Mr. Wallace noted that participation teaches students analytical skills by requiring them to break down a problem into its parts and apply the appropriate rules. In addition, they learn presentation skills through experience in standing up in front of a group and arguing persuasively. Members of the Charter School of Wilmington team were: seniors Shaun Kelly, Deji Ogunnaike, and Dasha Galperin; junior Eddie Kearns; sophomores Ben Wallace and Ian Burn; and freshmen Helen Tang and Michelle Barineau.

     The Charter School team was selected over the other finalist, Alexis I. DuPont High School, as the best of the 24 Delaware teams participating in the mock trials held in the New Castle County Courthouse in February, to represent the state in the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Oklahoma City May 11-14, 2006. Although the team did not win the national competition, they did receive several awards for best lawyer and best witness in various rounds. They returned home with a true zeal for the competition and look forward to competing in future state and, hopefully, national competitions.

     Should they reach the nationals in 2008, they will not have to travel far. Delaware has won the bid to host the 2008 National Mock Trial Championship in the New Castle County Courthouse. It is anticipated that 1,000 students, families, and teachers will attend that competition.

For further information, contact Franny Haney.

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