Ed. note: North Point High School was successful in its match against James M. Bennett High School to win the state quarterfinals on March 14. North Point will advance to the Final Four and compete next week in Annapolis.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the state’s Mock Trial program and for the first time in those four decades, a team from Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) won the circuit championship to advance the state quarterfinals.
North Point High School on Tuesday, March 14, will represent Circuit 7 encompassing Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties when the Eagles prosecution team takes on the defense from Salisbury’s James M. Bennett High School.
It’s a case both sides are familiar with — the State of Maryland v. Ryan Grimes. Mock trial teams around the state have been making arguments on both sides since earlier this school year when the mock trial season kicked off.
Anna Newton, a North Point social studies teacher and longtime Mock Trial coach, said she has a good group of students on the team — some veterans and some rookies. “They have been putting in a lot of work and learn from each of their previous matches,” she said. The team has stepped out of its comfort zone and have gotten more invested in the case this year. “They have really pushed further with the objections this year,” Newton said. “That has always been nerve wracking for them.”
Each year, mock trial teams get a new case — civil or criminal. This year it’s the latter with the narrative centered on a group of college students standing trial for dealing drugs on the campus of a fictional Chesapeake College.
At the school level, mock trial team members are given roles in the case — either prosecution or defense, attorneys or witnesses. A package of materials that includes pertinent details, such as background information, interviews, personal emails, text chains and other character-building notes, rounds out the experience. Teams are shepherded by team sponsors. At North Point, Newton’s co-coach is business education teacher, Frederick Sanford. Seun Williams, a Prince George’s-based lawyer, is the team’s attorney coach.
After scrimmages against classmates, the team faced off with those from other schools in Circuit 7. For the quarterfinals, North Point and Bennett will compete in a courtroom of the Circuit Court for Queen Anne’s County in Centreville. If the Eagles are successful, they will be part of the Final Four and argue the case during a two-day span in Annapolis against other elite Mock Trial teams. The two final teams compete in the state’s highest court — the Supreme Court of Maryland. The state championship is webcast live from the high court, and is available to view at Mock Trial State Championship Webcast.
Maxwell Gaynor, a senior, one of three team captains and a Mock Trial attorney for the prosecution, said it is teamwork that took the Eagles to the quarterfinals. “We made it this far because we’re willing do more for each other than we would do for ourselves,” he said. “It’s not simply about commanding your part of the case. You need to know what the witnesses are doing, what the attorneys on the other side are looking for so that everyone kind of learns from each other.”
Sanford, who has watched the team adjust and advance through meets since earlier this school year, believes the team is ready for the next level of the competition.
“They’re all smart kids, smart young adults,” he said. “They all put in the individual work and work well together. They feed off each other’s energy.”
While Mock Trial is a good introduction to the law — a handful of North Point students are interested in learning more about the field in college — it also instills other skills. “You have to go with the flow,” Aaliyah Davis, a junior, said. “Anything can happen, so you have to think on your feet.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,598 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.
CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).