March 6, 2003
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The YSHS Mock Trial team, from left: Ben Wesolowski, Jon Bullock, advisor Joyce McCurdy, Jeffrey R. McQuiston, president of the Dayton Bar Association, Lydia Gerthoffer, Martin Borchers, James Hyde, Scott Keyes, Rose Byrnes, Glenn Reed, Alex Melecki, Charlie Cromer, Aaron Zagory and Dylan Borchers.

YSHS Mock Trial team earns trip to state championship

Joyce McCurdy, the Yellow Springs High School Mock Trial advisors knew this year’s team had panache. She was right.

For the first time since mock trial began in 1983, the Yellow Springs team won the District 2003 Ohio Mock Trial Competition and qualified for a shot at the state championship next week.

“I think they have the ability to win it,” McCurdy said.

The team’s district win at the Montgomery County Courthouse on Feb. 21 was particularly triumphant because YSHS had only six weeks to prepare for trial, while the other 15 Dayton-area teams had over twice as long to prepare. And both the YSHS prosecuting and defending teams were able to win their cases in the individual matches.

In mock trial competitions, a panel of three local judges awards points to each team based on a variety of skills, such as showing the ability to think quickly in redirecting cross examinations, supporting objections, knowing courtroom procedure and following courtroom decorum.

YSHS won 343 points, the highest score of the day. The judges awarded prosecuting attorney Aaron Zagory a best attorney award and James Hyde and Charlie Cromer won best witness awards.

Chaminade Julienne’s team 1 came in second with 334 points and Butler’s team 1 came in third with 325 points. The other participating schools were Bellbrook, Bethel, Centerville, Eaton, Fairmont, Miamisburg, Northmont, Trotwood-Madison and Valleyview.

All the teams presented a case based on an historic appeal during the Civil War concerning an Ohio resident, Lamdin P. Miller, who claimed he was unlawfully imprisoned for insurrection against the Union.

The YSHS petitioning team was led by Zagory and co-counsel Scott Keyes, who said they relied on the First Amendment to argue that their client had not been unpatriotic in speaking out against the Republican Party. Hyde played the part of Miller, the petitioner, and used logical statements to refute the accusation that he was a traitor, Keyes said in an interview.

The other witness for the petitioner’s side was R.C. Bocking, played by Rose Byrnes.

On the side representing the State of Ohio were lead attorney Alex Melecki and co-counsel Dylan Borchers, and two witnesses played by Cromer and Glenn Reed. Though the defending team won its case as well, Borchers said that morally he was on the side of the petitioner, whose right to free speech and freedom of expression were hanging in the balance.

“It goes against my ideals, but I want to be a lawyer, and this experience makes me realize you’ll have to put your own views aside,” Borchers said.

The entire team received a lot of help reinforcing arguments and following legal protocol from Dayton attorney John Paul Rion. A practicing trial lawyer, Rion counseled the team for several hours over a few weekends to help each member prepare for the unexpected.

“He helped us a lot with demeanor and poise and told us to stand up straight and take control of the room,” Melecki said.

The other trial participants included Jon Bullock as the bailiff, and Lydia Gerthoffer, Martin Borchers and Ben Wesolowski as the film crew.

YSHS will compete against 40 other teams during state competition, which begins Thursday, March 13, at the Franklin County Courthouse, The championship round will be held at the Town Hall in Ohio Village. The state champion will receive up to $5,000 to help pay for the opportunity to participate in the National Mock Trial Competition.


—Lauren Heaton