Share This Page

Gateway team fares well in mock trial competition

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

A jury box filled with lawyers heard the pleas of Gateway's high school student-lawyers last weekend as the 30th annual Pennsylvania Bar Association Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition took place in Harrisburg.

Students presented both sides to a hypothetical case concerning the responsibility of an urban renewal developer whose crane collapsed and killed two people.

A team of lawyers hear the case and come to a verdict, which determines how far the teams advance.

The students, who play the parts of lawyers, witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants, are judged based on how well they prepared their case, the presentation of their arguments and their ability to follow courtroom rules.

The Gateway Mock Trial team consisted of eight students: Jordan Doman, Stephen Gross, Kaelin Harmon, Kristen Ku, Elaine McDaniel, Eden Safar, Rohan D. Shah and Kaylee Steimer.

This team advanced further in the competition than any team since 2007, said their coach, Marc Gigliotti, a science teacher at Gateway High School.

“When you get that far, it really comes down to very, very minute differences,” he said.

Although the team didn't advance to the national competition in Indianapolis, Gigliotti said that Gateway was in the top 12 teams out of 308 that competed.

“I think that the success here was a function of the down-to-earth nature of the kids, their incredible intelligence and their motivation,” Gigliotti said.

Many of the students were returning to the competition and were pleased with how they performed.

“We've been doing it for a couple years but we've never advanced this far,” said McDaniel, 16. “It was a learning experience.”

One of the most important things for Doman, 17, who played the role of both lawyer and witness for the team, was the presentation of the arguments.

“Your mannerisms and what you say really matter,” she said.

While preparation and motivation helped to set the team apart, there are always curve balls in the courtroom that are difficult to anticipate, said Gross, 17, who served as a team lawyer.

“You never know what to expect from the other team,” he said.

“You just kind of have to adjust to the moment,” said McDaniel, who also served as a lawyer.

Gross, McDaniel and Doman are all considering law school after college graduation.

“It's just an exciting thing to do, it's competitive,” Gross said.

For the second constecutive year, Katherine Leech Vollen, 32, a 1999 Gateway graduate and an associate attorney at Raphael, Ramsden and Behers, provided guidance and helped students develop a strong case.

“We couldn't have gone this far without her help and without her guidance,” Gigliotti said.

Vollen said she helped them learn effective direct testimony, cross-examination techniques, introducing exhibits as evidence, how to respond to objections, courtroom procedure and decorum and oral advocacy skills.

Vollen is confident the students learned skills that will come in handy later in life.

“I'm proud of the work they do,” she said. “Whatever they decide to do … they're all going to be successful individuals.”

Gigliotti has the same certainty.

“Just being involved with them is a real honor and a real privilege,” he said. “You know they're going to make it very far in life.”

He is also hopeful for next year's team, which will have several returning members.

“We know that we're capable of doing really, really well,” he said.

“We're going to go for the whole thing next year.”

Matthew DeFusco is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2311 or mdefusco@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.