Mock Trial Team wins first-ever State competition

Eight well dressed and prepared Hettinger High School students demonstrated their aptitude for law at the State Mock Trial competition this week in Bismarck.

Frank Turner

Students Mason DeFoe, Kelby Pemberton, and Mack Buckmier participated in the contest as attorneys while Kyle Burwick, Miami Pekas, Alyssa Andress, Ty Warbis, Zach Rickertson, and Emily Shirek were witnesses.
On top of winning the State Mock Trial competition, many individual team members were acknowledged with individual awards. Kyle Burwick and Alyssa Andress were acknowledged as outstanding individual witnesses, and Kelby Pemberton and Mack Buckmier were acknowledged as outstanding attorneys.

According to coaches Erin Melling and Aaron Roseland, the students trained and prepared for months for the competition. Roseland said that the students were all extremely dedicated to the team and met at least once a week starting in January all the way up to the State competition in March.

In the competition, Hettinger students competed against Bismarck Legacy High School and Surrey High School. To succeed against the competition, the Hettinger team had to learn all the basics about law, such as depositions, direct examination, cross-examination, openings, and closing for both prosecution and defense.
“In the morning, we played the defense as defense attorneys… In the evening, we played the prosecution side. Each time we did it, we went against another team like Surrey or Legacy,” said Roseland.

For the competition, teams were judged on how well individuals were able to play the roles of attorney and witness in a mock trial. Both Melling and Roseland said that both good acting and confidence are vital parts of the competition.

“The witnesses are basically role actors,” said Melling. “They have to read their part, understand their character, and act. The lawyers have to present their case using speech skills and academics. Our kids do it really well.”

Both Melling and Roseland were incredibly impressed with how the high school students performed at the competition.

“How they found time, given school and all their other activities, to present the way they did was phenomenal to watch,” said Melling.

Roseland explained that he had confidence in the students walking into the State competition.
“… I knew that we had put in the work,” said Roseland, “The witnesses knew their depositions backwards and forwards, and they had worked very hard to inhabit their characters…”

Winning the State level qualified the Hettinger team for the national competition in Athens, Georgia on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of May.

Roseland said that they are hoping to go to nationals, however the trip to Georgia is not an absolute guarantee. Although the team is excited, they are still trying to fund the trip to make it a reality.
“Funding is an issue,” said Roseland. “We are needing to raise $15,000 or more for hotels, flights, and travel accommodations. We are contacting colleges around the state to help us out… We are going to be looking toward the community as well.”

Already, Crane Roseland & Melling PC has donated $3,000 to start a donations account so the Hettinger team can participate and represent North Dakota in the National Mock Trial competition.
Melling said that she hopes to give the students an experience of a lifetime at the national competition.
“It’s so much more than just Mock Trial,” said Melling, “Going forward, if anyone of these kids decides to pursue a career in law, and trust me they can, they will have a leg up because of this experience.”

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