Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mock Trial Weekend

On Wednesday, Luke drove the big van over to meet the rest of his mock trial team.  They loaded up, and one of the other dads drove the team up to the mock trial national championship tournament, which was held this year in Hartford, CT.

About an hour after he left, Nathan arrived home from his second year of college.  We were so glad to see him!  We were so glad, in fact, that Bob and I left him with the other 8 kids for the weekend!  Welcome home, Nathan, away from your peaceful life of only being responsible for yourself!

Craig and Christine drove over here early Friday morning, and we left to drive up at 6:30 AM.  We made incredible time, getting to Hartford a little after 1:00.  It helped tremendously that Christine is from Boston, and so has made this drive tons and tons of times, so she could help us ignore the GPS, which insisted that we wanted to cross the George Washington Bridge instead of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
 When we got there, we drove around a park where the team was eating, but we didn't see them among the throngs of teenagers in suits, lol.  So we checked into our hotel and then started walking over in the direction of the court buildings.  We stopped for lunch at a restaurant that promised an "express lunch".  After we ordered, we decided we should enter the address of the building where round 2 was going to take place for our team--and it turned out it was a mile away!  We thought it was just around the corner or so!  Since it was 10 after 2:00, and the next round started at 2:30 . . . that meant we really should be leaving right then.  We waited impatiently a few more minutes for our food, and when it came, we literally inhaled it.  Then we raced out the door, leaving cash to pay.  We alternately walked and ran the mile, completely unprepared for such exercise, lol.  In fact, I seem to have pulled a muscle in the top of my foot from running in shoes definitely not designed for such things!

We arrived, huffing and puffing, to the court building at 2:35, and we were worried we wouldn't be let in.  Ha!  We waited and waited, while our heart rates went back to normal, and we stopped sweating, until after 3:00 for the judge and the panel of 3 people who were the actual scoring judges for the competition.  We could have taken much more time, both at the restaurant and on the mad dash over!

Our team was defense this round, and they looked really good.  The case was actually a murder case, which is rare for mock trial.  The story was that in 2014 a teen girl had gone to a Halloween party with several friends, and then on to an "after party", where the teens were unchaperoned.  There was drinking, etc., and one boy, the defendant, was hitting on this girl.  (There was some question as to whether it was wanted or not.) The girl didn't come home, and her body was found the next morning.  She had been hit on the head with a hockey stick, which was found nearby.  Three kids had been dressed as these hockey players, and various fingerprints were found.  A wine bottle was found with fingerprints as well, and there was DNA evidence under the girl's fingernails.  After interviews and forensic analysis, the results were inconclusive, and so the investigator couldn't make an arrest.

Then 2 years later, in 2016, the defendant, "Wilbur Merritt IV", was trying to be initiated into a secret society at his college.  There were physical and mental challenges which culminated in "confession week" where the initiates were taken into an intimidating room called "The Tomb".  They had to "confess" the worst thing they had ever done, and Wilbur confessed to killing Sigourney Porter.  But maybe he was coerced, and under psychological pressure to make something up?  There was another boy at the party who had been in a relationship with Sigourney, and a few days after the party, he committed suicide, before the detective could interview him.

Here is an article in a local paper about the tournament, and it gives a little bit more information about how they came up with the case.  We got to see our team on defense twice and offense once, and it was so fascinating how different each trial was, as each opposing team brought up and emphasized different points.  I had never seen any rounds of mock trial before, and I really enjoyed watching.  Fascinating and exciting!
 The kids were glad when round 2 was over, because that meant they could go back to the hotel and change!  We all walked back to the hotel together, but the competition provided their dinner, and then they hit the pool.
 We parents went to a little pizza place with their amazing coach.  It had thin crust, which I like, but no water except bottled, which I didn't like.  We had several interactions with homeless people, of which Hartford seems to have a lot.  Bob bought one man a deli sandwich, and another man a pizza.

After our early morning and all our exercise, we were so tired!  We went back to the hotel, read for a bit, and went to bed super early--9:30 maybe?? We're getting old!

The next day the first round was at 9:00.  We got there in plenty of time this time, and we still had to wait for awhile for the judges.  That round was great--very fast-paced.  I think it was my favorite one, although we were the prosecution, which seemed harder to argue.  Afterwards, the team went across to a Subway (which was playing Christian music!), and we parents went to a different deli, which made delicious sandwiches.  The guy for whom we had bought the pizza came in and walked around to the different tables, holding up a torn $20 and telling us the laundromat machine had eaten it.  We pointed out that we had helped him the night before, and he got very indignant.  "No, you didn't!"  Umm, yes, we bought you a pizza . . . So then he went away and left us alone.  Lots of sketchy characters, and it is hard to know how to really help them.

Then we hiked over to the convention center to wait for the tournament to release pairings for the 2:00 round.  They use "dynamic pairing".  The first round is completely random--we went up against the eventual champions--, and then depending on how many of the 3 ballots from the scoring judges a team wins, then that determines who the team goes up against next.  So even if the team loses all 3 ballots by just 1 point each, then they would be paired with a worse team.  It's an interesting system, and definitely not "fair", because in the end, the teams are ranked, but each team has only competed against 4 teams in the whole competition, and it really all depends on who you went up against in the first round!    
 While the team got some last-minute coaching by their amazing coach, who is just now graduating from law school this year, Bob and I read our books and relaxed.  It was nice and peaceful!  Then we hiked back to where the morning round had been held for the 4th round.
 Luke was practicing examining his witness, "Dr. Jamie Hale", a social psychologist who expounds upon the adolescent brain.  Each side gets 3 witnesses to call, and 3 attorneys, who both examine their own witnesses and cross examine the opposing witnesses.  One attorney for each side makes the opening arguments, and another one makes the closing arguments at the end.
 One last group picture after the end of the final round!

We walked back over to the convention center, where we waited forever for them to announce that the top 2 teams were North Carolina and Michigan.  Those 2 teams got a quick sandwich dinner, and then they went over to the state supreme court building, where they argued the case after flipping a coin to see which side they would each be.  We got to go out to a nice restaurant with the team and relax!
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel (in the rain).  We put on our pajamas and either read or watched hockey while the team changed and went back to the convention center for the closing "gala", where the top 10 were announced.  We were all rooting for North Carolina, because they were another homeschooling team, and yay, they won!  The kids had a good time, and fortunately, the competition provided buses back to the hotel.  I was thinking it would be very ironic for a competition where the case was about the consequences of teens partying unwisely at night to let a bunch of teens (who had been partying under chaperones' eyes) to then walk about a mile back to their hotel after midnight, especially with all these shady homeless characters wandering around!  But not to worry.  The buses delivered them safely back after a late night of dancing.

The 4 of us left the hotel this morning at 8:30 to drive back home, and we made it back at about 2:30.  The team left at 10:00 and got back after 6:00.  Finally Nathan and Luke could see each other--first time since spring break!  Nathan did a fantastic job of holding down the fort back at home.  He got everyone to Bible study and to church (early!).  He even took Caleb driving a little!  (Caleb got his permit on Monday, and I had already taken him driving a few times so he knew what he was doing.  He's a very eager learner, and he is doing great so far!)  People were glad to see us, but no one missed us *too* greatly while we were gone.  This weekend was the best Mother's Day present ever!

Luke's glad it is all over, since that means his year, and his high school career, is pretty much done.  He just has to take the make-up AP psychology exam on Friday, and then he is finished completely with high school!

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