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Mock Trial team one of Elite Eight

Posted By March 27, 2015 | 2:03 pm | Local

By William T. Clew

It was close, but the Holy Name mock trial team lost its match Monday in the Elite Eight round of state competition.
Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School was one of 120 to 130 teams – it varies year to year, coach Jonathan Meagher said – to take part in this year’s statewide mock trial competition. The competition starts in November and ends in March.
The state is divided into 16 regions. Holy Name competed in three regular-season mock trials in the Central Massachusetts region and won all three, Mr. Meagher said. Shrewsbury’s St. John’s High School also had three wins. The two schools faced each other in a regional playoff.
St. John’s is a very good team, Mr. Meagher said, and the competition was close. But Holy Name came out on top and moved on to the Sweet Sixteen round where they defeated Westford Academy.
On Monday in a courtroom at Worcester Superior Court, Holy Name and Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School met in the Elite Eight round.
Each year the Massachusetts Bar Association puts together a case for the competition. This year it was a murder case, Mr. Meagher said. The association makes up a booklet which includes attorneys’ opening remarks, witness testimony, exhibits and the like, all the things that are used in a real trial.
Team members act as attorneys or witnesses. The team can either prosecute the case of be the defendant team. Volunteer judges are attorneys or, sometimes, actual judges, he said.
The trials last two to 2 1/2 hours. The teams follow the rules of evidence, giving testimony, raising objections and the like.
The students on the team from Pioneer Valley are all actors and actresses. Given the format of the competition, that can, and has, make a difference. Over the last 20 years Pioneer Valley has been the best team in the state, Mr. Meagher said,
It paid off this time, too. In a very close competition – “a toss-up,” Mr. Meagher called it – Pioneer Valley won. Holy Name and Pioneer Valley have met several times in the past and Pioneer said Holy Name is the best team they face, he said.
Taking part in the mock trial team requires dedication of time and effort. Study and practice during the regular season can last two to four hours a day, four days a week. When the playoffs begin the team practices five or six days a week, including weekends and vacation days, Mr. Meagher said.
The students have to keep up with their regular school work as well as prepare for the mock trials. Some teams use notes during the competitions, but the top teams, including Holy Name, make their presentations from memory, he said.
Mr. Meagher, who founded the mock trial program at Holy Name in 1997, teaches at the school and attends every practice. Attorney Anne M. Kennedy, assistant principal, and Attorney Elizabeth W. Morse, also coach at many practices.
Mr. Meagher said he took part in mock trials when he was a student at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers. He said he had thought about becoming a lawyer but had done some teaching and decided to make that his career.
In the years Holy Name has taken part in the mock trial competitions, the school’s teams have made it to the Elite Eight rounds at least 10 times. In 2002 Holy Name got to the state finals and lost to  Needham High School by one point.
This year there are five seniors on the team. They found the loss to be difficult, a big letdown, Mr. Meagher said. But the upside of the season is that they learned teamwork and got to know and work with wonderful people.