Debate Team Takes First in County; Third in Regionals


The Mock Trial participants pose for a group photograph prior to beginning the county competition where they would win first place. One week later, the team would participate in the regional competition, winning the first round, but unfortunately losing the second. (Photo courtesy ofPenny Giamoni)

The Warren Hills Debate Team won first place in the New Jersey State Bar Foundation Mock Trial County Competition in mid-February and went on to place third in the Northern Regional Competition on the 28th.
This year, The Debate Team was presented with a criminal trial from the National Bar Association (NBA) that dealt with stolen goods. The prosecution attorneys consisted of seniors Thomas Finnegan and Yuliana Pereginets and the defense attorneys were seniors Precious Thirrah and Destiny Sheppard.
The fictional case pertained to a defendant, Perry Jordan, whom the prosecution believed to have used the alias of Emery Rose, a significant suspect who had been obtaining and selling stolen luxury goods. The entire case centered around establishing whether or not Perry Jordan and Emory Rose were in fact the same person based on evidence from sources, such as a pawn shop near Jordan’s house, Jordan’s cell phone and the opinions of several character and expert witnesses.
Mock trial rules required that attorneys’ lines were fully memorized and that witnesses knew their cases in their entirety.
To prepare for the trial, students worked for months, studying pages of affidavits and case clarifications released monthly by the NBA. They met frequently on Google Meets and Zooms in the evenings to run through their cases multiple times and review objections and how to make and respond.
The team also worked closely with Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Shelton, who served as their attorney coach, providing them with information and constructive feedback for both the county and regional competitions.
Debate Team captain and state attorney for this case, Tom Finnegan stated, “Mock trial has been difficult, but with practice scrimmages we are growing more confident in our case and our team.”
After placing first at the county level, the team won their first round at regionals against the Hudson County champion, Hoboken High School, and advanced to the second round against Sussex County champion, Newton High School to whom Warren Hills lost by a mere two points, putting them in third place.
Despite not making it to the State competition, participants learned from their Mock Trial experience.
“Mock Trial really forces you to think on your feet,” said junior and expert witness Hanora Finnegan. “It’s a great learning opportunity for any student who likes to challenge themselves.”