Huntington High School’s mock trial team is 2-0 after turning back a challenge from a strong Commack team earlier this week. The Blue Devils are now busy prepping for a showdown with defending county champion Northport.
Huntington was assigned the side of the defense against Commack and the Blue Devils shined in the courtroom with their experienced attorneys displaying a firm grasp of this year’s statewide criminal case.
The Huntington mock trial team in the high school lobby prepares to leave for its match at Commack.
The trial commenced with a brilliantly scripted and perfectly executed opening statement by senior Lia Shechter. The trial victory was secured with a dramatic and passionate closing argument by senior John Panos. Senior Joseph Mead was outstanding throughout the competition, too, especially during his artful cross examination of the prosecution’s critical identification witness.
“I am so proud of everyone who participated in the competition against Commack,” Mr. Panos said. “Our attorneys were quick on their feet and our witnesses did a fantastic job during both their direct and their cross examinations. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for us, especially next week against Northport.”
Huntington’s returning veterans are a confident and impressive group. “Overall, I think we really were able to show what Huntington mock trial is all about,” said sophomore Emily Geller after the match. “Our strong suits shined through and that’s what got us the win. I am very excited for the rest of the season and to see how far we can get. Our team is extremely strong this year and I hope that we can make it all the way to states.”
Huntington has some talented newcomers on its team this year. “For my first time participating in mock trial, Commack provided a great gold mine of information and a great learning experience,” freshman Angie Hernandez said. “They were a worthy opponent. You could picture the attorneys becoming real attorneys in the future. The witnesses made you feel like you were reliving their experiences.”
The New York State Bar Association Foundation sponsors and coordinates the state’s mock trial program. The organization sends high school teams the annual case, which centers on either civil or criminal law and related procedures.
“The competition against Commack was definitely interesting and a great learning experience,” sophomore Ashley Genao said. “I can’t wait to move further with the mock trial team this year.”
District residents and practicing attorneys Xavier Palacios and John H. LoTurco spend long hours working with the team during its preparations as its volunteer legal advisors. Huntington High School teachers Suzi Biagi, Sarah Buchalter and Gregory Dieterich serve as the team’s faculty advisors.
“Our overall team performance against Commack was truly exemplary in representing the defendant, Phoenix Jones in the case of the USA vs Phoenix Jones,” Mr. LoTurco said. “Our poise and preparation was on full display throughput the trial. We have a perfect blend of veteran senior leadership and experienced underclassmen, which we hope will guide us to another deep playoff run as is the tradition with Huntington’s mock trial teams.”
The Blue Devil courtroom program is open to any student in the high school. “I would absolutely recommend mock trial to anyone who loves any amount of law and the art of performance in a passionate yet formal way,” senior Oliver Galicia-Martinez.
Huntington’s case came together nicely against Commack. Sophomore Christopher Maichin’s portrayal of the falsely accused defendant was highly convincing and entertaining. Sophomore Tallulah Pitti’s portrayal of the delivery driver was performed with poise and grace. In her first ever role, sophomore Alexis Kaloudis’ mastery rattled her adversary to such an extent she was unable to successfully complete her cross examination.
Some Huntington team members had to overcome butterflies during the battle against Commack. “It was my first competition and I was so nervous, but as soon as I started answering questions, I felt more comfortable and left the chair feeling accomplished,” Ms. Kaloudis said.
The Blue Devils feel good about where they are right now as a team. “I am very proud of how our team performed against Commack,” sophomore Cassidy Casabona said. “We were focused and it ended in a successful way for us. I can’t wait to see how we improve at our next competition.”
Team members are meeting several nights each week and again on the weekend with Messrs. Palacios and LoTurco to gain mastery of the case material and to prepare for matches.
“Mr. Dieterich and I are so proud of the students,” said Ms. Biagi following the Commack match. “They were polite, professional and knew their roles, performing exquisitely.”
Huntington hosts state power Northport next Wednesday (February 12) at 4 p.m. in the School Heritage Museum courtroom center at the high school.
“Huntington is hopefully on its way again to another successful season,” Mr. LoTurco said.