Mock Trial Seniors Give Their Case


Last years Mock Trial Team on the Courthouse steps.

 Typically, going to court is not one’s idea of a good time. But for students in the Mock Trial club, it’s a grand finale they look forward to for months.

Seniors Gavin Morgan, Andrew Battaglia and Conor Costello last year.

As a sophomore on the team, I’ve seen the great example that our seniors have set with their hard work and encouragement, despite having to compete remotely. As this is their last year, I wanted to give them some time on the stand.

This year, Mock Trial will wave goodbye to six seniors: team captain Andrew Battaglia, Conor Costello, Michael Forget, Maddie Grande, Gavin Morgan and Rachel Treffeisen.

“I come back because there’s a different story each year,” Andrew said. “I like the presentation aspect and writing the questions. It’s more fun at the beginning when you first find out what you have to do.”

Speaking from his perspective as captain, he said, “This year was the best year. I felt like I did a good job of leading my team in the right direction and forming a central argument. Things really clicked this year.”

In November each year, the club divides into a Plaintiff/Prosecution team and a Defense team to prepare their arguments for a case that the PA Bar Association creates. Within each team, there are two main roles: attorney and witness.

Attorneys conduct opening and closing statements, direct examinations of their witnesses and cross examinations of the opposing team’s witnesses. Witnesses testify in the trial in direct examination and cross examination. Other roles within teams include timekeeping, understudying and helping brainstorm ideas.

By February, the Plaintiff and Defense face off with opposing teams in front of a real judge, traditionally at the Montgomery Courthouse.

“The best part of it was the people,” said Michael. “We get our work done, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously that the meetings aren’t a good time. My favorite part is getting the case files in November, that first read through and finding out what you can argue.”

Conor said, “It was fun to write out our questions and see our ideas develop into a cohesive argument. The best part of the season was the satisfaction of having the full case put together and presenting it in front of the judge and seeing all our work. It was especially fun to condemn other people on cross examination, to hit them with the burning questions.”

Andrew, Michael and Conor have participated in Mock Trial together since seventh grade.

The 2020-2021 plaintiff team.

“I remember me, Conor and Andrew just sitting on computers and trying to figure out what was going on,” Michael recalled. “All three of us were there every step of the way.” 

“It’s definitely something the three of us bond over. We’ve been the core of the team since ninth grade, ever since it was only five or six people,” Conor said. “It hasn’t always been happy moments — sometimes we argue over the case — but it all turns out well. We became closer as friends and got better at Mock Trial as well.”

Gavin and Rachel joined the team in junior year.

“I saw Andrew and Michael had a booth at the club fair, and Michael had tried to convince me throughout the golf season,” Gavin said. “It was fun, presenting the case and trying to design questions to get the most out of the quickest time. I was annoyed that we lost and I felt like I had more that I could do; it was a no-brainer to do it senior year.”

“I was in the think-tank and did understudying at my old school, Philadelphia Academy Charter, in sophomore year,” Rachel said. “Junior year at HH was when I really felt a part of the team. It’s a lot about the community. You leave feeling accomplished, like you’ve done a job and done it correctly. You get to work with people multiple times a week on arguments and form things, and it comes full circle. You can mentor freshmen and tell them, ‘You can do it.'”

This was Maddie’s first year of Mock Trial.

The 2020-2021 defense team.

“It was really fun. I really regret not doing Mock Trial earlier,” Maddie said. “I thought the whole thing was cool, with the 70-page case file, hearing the testimonies, it was a real ‘mock trial.’ It was nice to be a part of.”

Along with joys, seniors said that they’d experienced trials as well.

Conor said, “For our team, a big challenge was time management, both with how we spent time during meetings and how we budgeted our time during the trial. It was challenging to get everyone to work cohesively and get the same themes and structure of the case.”

“Losing wasn’t fun,” Gavin remarked. “It also took me a while to memorize and be confident in what I was going to say, especially the opening statement this year. Improvisation, especially when it came to objections and recovering, was also tough to rebound from. I enjoyed objecting, I didn’t enjoy getting objected to.”

“This being my first year and playing one of the witnesses, I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to be doing. There was a little more independence with it being virtual. But Rachel, who was my attorney, was really open to hearing my ideas. Props to her,” said Maddie.

Rachel said, “A challenge for me was being open to people’s critiques and how they viewed my work. Coming to a new school as the new blonde girl and breaking into any team is difficult, especially being a woman in a man’s club, as it was then. But as long as you’re open to learning and being sociable, you’re going to be fine. The team really helped me break into Hatboro-Horsham society, too.”

Seniors gave different opinions on the competition’s remote format this year.

“I thought it was easier to collaborate virtually,” said Andrew. “I missed going to the courthouse, though, and going over body language. Aside from that, I felt that more people got a better experience and put more time into it. We got farther this year, despite having upsets.”

Senior Rachel Treffeisen and sophomore Audrey Kim last year.

Michael said, “It was in no way a horrible way to end my senior year, but it definitely wasn’t the same experience. I was worried about incoming freshmen, because the real experience isn’t working in a Zoom call, it’s us messing around in Mrs. English-Murphy’s room for an hour and doing Mock Trial outside of school. But I’m glad we at

least had something.”

“I was at the competition with my blazer and button-up and wore sweatpants off-camera. I definitely would’ve felt more pressure if I were at the courthouse,” Maddie said. “Being virtual helped relieve the pressure, and was an aid in being prepared for the trial.”

Mock Trial adviser Mrs. Kimberly English-Murphy shared thoughts about the seniors:

“Andrew was always the serious one. Seeing him in his tie back in eighth grade gave me a good sense of, ‘This was Andrew.’ He’s been pretty consistent, and so has Conor.

“Conor was a superstar out of the gate. He won Best Advocate every single year. He has an excellent vocabulary and an ability to think of his feet — the part of Mock Trial that can’t really be taught.”

“I’ve seen Michael blossom the most. He’s always been so smart and talented, and also very funny, and I saw him get more serious each year as he got older. Andrew and Conor rubbed off on him. He always has that fun sense of humor but he got better at turning it off and focusing.”

“I could tell it was nerve-wracking for Gavin to be new and be put on the spot like that. I saw Gavin grow in such confidence in his demeanor and the way he presented himself, the way he would reach out and mentor the younger members. He wasn’t shy with sharing constructive criticism. He went from being new to being solid pretty quickly.”

“Rachel was one of the only girls, and she did a great job of coming in. She didn’t hold back but she didn’t come in and try to take over. Her presentations are really excellent. You can tell she was taught conversational skills.”

“Maddie is a natural. She has a self-possession and poise about her. She got cut short during the trial, so I wish she could’ve given her full performance. She’s got a great presenting personality.”

Overall, the seniors reflected very fondly on their experience with high school Mock Trial.

“My favorite case was an arson case about a guy who poked holes into tennis balls and injected them with lighter fluid,” Andrew recalled. “These years have been fun. I learned that you need to have a plan, above all. You need to think of what the other side will try to say and about the consequences of your actions.”

“Improvising is also a skill you learn in Mock Trial. A lot of times, students are used to things going their exact way,” Rachel said. “Leaving the club behind is bittersweet. I was just getting used to it, and then things got shut down. I’m particularly thankful for our adviser, who helped me figure a lot of things out.”

Senior Micheal Forget (right) last year with graduates.

“Mock Trial has been one of the greatest exercises in public speaking. I always hated going up in class and having to talk. I would go to the bathroom instead, or to the nurse. But I almost enjoy it now,” said Michael. “It’s sad that we’ve got to go. But it’s been a great four years. This was one of the best experiences of my high school career.”

Conor said, “Mock Trial helped me build confidence. Now I can deliver a speech in the courtroom without backing down from anyone. Its end is happy and sad. It’s really cool to look back and see how we grew from when we were ninth graders to now, when the team is a lot bigger, and how we’ve improved. I’m happy that I went through it.”

“I liked trying to prove a conspiracy this year,” Gavin said. “If I could go back in time, I definitely would’ve done it my freshman and sophomore years. But I can’t complain too much; I enjoyed every moment of it.”

Maddie said, “I thought the case this year was really fun, with the zombies and the chemicals. And during the case, when we realized how short on time we were, Rachel and I were texting and saying, ‘We’re scrapping this,’ and highlighting the parts we kept. We didn’t even go overtime. The whole team was really adaptive, and it was just go-time. It was cool to watch.”

Mrs. English-Murphy gave a parting message to the seniors:

“Appreciate the tough moments. This year especially, we got the short end of the stick. But it’s like anything else — you’ve got to keep your head up and move on. When looking back on Mock Trial, remember the grace that you handled it with. You gained public speaking skills and court decorum in a club that not a lot of students have the moxie to try.”

She left off with, “I’m going to miss this group. I can’t wait to hear what they do in the world.”

For many of the seniors, this may not be the end of their journey with Mock Trial. All expressed interest in continuing to participate in college.