Wilmington Charter is this year's Delaware Mock Trial Competition winner.

Wilmington Charter goes back-to-back, ties most wins in State Mock Trial

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Wilmington Charter is this year's Delaware Mock Trial Competition winner.

Wilmington Charter is this year’s Delaware Mock Trial Competition winner.

After the state’s young prospective lawyers battled it out in the courtrooms for five rounds of competition over two days, the Charter School of Wilmington has gone back-to-back, winning the 2024 Delaware High School Mock Trial.

RELATED: Wilmington Charter wins 2023 state mock trial competition

With March Madness creeping up, the mock trial is structured like a tournament bracket, with  round-robin style knock-out rounds.

This year, Wilmington Charter beat Newark Charter School in the final round, marking Newark Charter’s first time ever making it to the championship round. 

Teams earn points for a variety of factors such as witness believability, trial composure, time management, knowledge of the case and courtroom procedures and more.

Each round takes place in a different courtroom in the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center in Wilmington.

With its win, Wilmington Charter is now tied with St. Mark’s School for the most wins in the Delaware competition’s 33-year history, as both now have 11 titles.

The competition typically includes about 200 students, 50 coaches, and 115 Delaware bench and bar members, who serve as presiding judges or scoring judges throughout the two days.

Judges, who have decades of experience in law, give the students feedback on what they did well and how to improve their performance in the courtroom.

This year’s competition wrapped up Saturday and included 22 teams from across the state. One change this year was that novice teams were paired with one another in the first round.

“The whole point of the competition is to foster learning through firsthand experience,” said Betsy Renzo, executive director of Delaware Law-Related Education Center, the organizer of the state’s mock trial competition. 

Renzo said the change helps the center’s goal of giving more students access to feel the empowerment of demanding a courtroom’s attention and the confidence to pursue a career in the law.

Each year, the two finalist teams are assigned either a criminal or civil case, which alternates back and forth each year.

This year was a criminal case involving the death of an alleged loan shark, who was shot and pushed off the top of a parking garage during a meeting with a client who owed him money. 

Witness accounts of the crime, however, were contradictory, and teams took turns arguing each side of the case during the competition. 

For example, if in the first round, students argued the side of the prosecution, they then had to argue the side of the defense during the second round. 

Final verdicts are not rendered in each round – there was no finding of guilt or innocence. Instead, each team was judged based on their presentation of the case and knowledge of the law.

Students presented opening statements, closing arguments and questioned other students who played witnesses or experts in the case. 

All cases followed proper legal procedure, and, in many cases, the presiding judge was a current or retired member of the Delaware bench. 

The presiding officer for the final round this year was Delaware Supreme Court Justice N. Christopher Griffiths, a former mock trial coach who serves as co-chair of the Mock Trial Committee. 

Scoring judges for the championship round included the Honorable Sherry Fallon of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware; the Honorable Joseph Slights, former vice-chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery; the Honorable Lydia York, Delaware’s  auditor of accounts; Kelly Farnan, director at Richards, Layton & Finger, P.A.; and Ben Wallace with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

After the competition, the Charter School of Wilmington’s novice team won the Delaware Way Award, which is given each year to the team that best exemplifies the ideals of mock trial – civility, justice, and fair play.

Other awards given at the banquet included best attorney, which was won by Aahdi Narayan of Wilmington Charter; best witness, which was won by Cassidy Lawhorn of Newark Charter; and best courtroom sketch artist, which was won by Allison Munson of Newark Charter.

Wilmington Charter will represent Delaware at the National High School Mock Trial Championship, which this year is being held in Wilmington, Delaware on May 3-4, 2024.

“Because Delaware is hosting the national competition this year, Newark Charter may also have a chance to compete for the national title” said Daniel Attaway, the co-chair of the Mock Trial Committee, who also serves as the host director for the 2024 national competition.

If there are an odd number of teams, or if a team is needed as the result of an accommodation, then the host state’s second-place team competes to ensure that there are an even number of teams.

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