Debate Wins First Place at Counties


The Debate Team won against North Warren Regional High School during the county competition and went onto Regionals, where, unfortunately, they did not progress. However, they left the courtroom ecstatic at their performance. (Photo courtesy of Penny Giamoni)

The Warren Hills Debate Mock Trial Team went to the Warren County Courthouse in Belvidere, NJ to compete in the county-wide mock trial competition, late February, where they won first place.  

The team won against North Warren Regional High School of Blairstown which was decided by the second round. The county-wide competition is run by volunteer Jessica Cardone, an assistant prosecutor of Hunterdon County. 

Mock Trials go by most of the rules and steps that are followed during an actual court trial. The winner is decided by a point system that is made by the judges watching the performance. The scores are never revealed to the competitors. 

The case was about a senior in high school named Rory who passed away due to heart failure while filming a YouTube video for his friend, Sam. Rory was told, by Sam, to drink multiple cans of a highly-caffeinated drink and  proceeded to exercise outside during the hottest day of the summer. He collapsed and passed away in the hospital. 

The mock trial begins with the pre-trial conference that involves both the plaintiff and defense attorneys. It then goes to opening statements by both sides, followed by the witness and cross examination by the plaintiff side, then defense. Closing statements are then said to the jury. 

Mock trials are a performance art as well as a way for students to gain familiarity with the criminal justice system and the law.

Junior Raina Teter and senior Renee Simeus  both played attorneys in the mock trial. 

“My dream is to become a criminal defense attorney,” said Simeus. “People our age are held to the idea that we have to make these major life decisions so early in life, so it is important to immerse yourself in situations that give you experience in that field. Being an attorney is not just about trial and it’s not what it seems like in the movies. A lot of the work I do is behind the scenes, and it’s writing, reading, altering and formatting the case.” 

“I find it important that I am a well-rounded person,” said Teter. “I have a lot of interests that are not related to what I want to be in the future, including mock trial and debate. I put a lot of value in being a person with a diverse set of experiences and debate stimulates me creatively and makes me think on my feet and to think of solutions on a whim.” 

 Simeus and Teter both indicated that being a part of the mock trial team is an enjoyable  challenge. 

“I am a very competitive person, so for me I look at the people I go against as my competition in the future.” said Simeus. “I always say to myself: ‘What can you do to be better?’ It’s really cool to put yourself against others who are just as good as you, if not better, and to see what you can do to excel.” 

“I have always put myself at a very high standard,” said Teter. “Even though you go into mock trials with practice and a script, you still have to be okay with the idea that you will make mistakes and that you still leave with a win or come back from that mistake just as strong, if not stronger.”

The amount of work and practice that the Debate Team put in showed the students all their hard work paid off. 

“I came away from this entire experience with a sense of boldness,” said Teter. “Being able to look at a situation that you may think is unwinnable and that there is no way forward, but still going through with it, is bold. Overall, I love the process of it and I can go away with a better version of myself and just keep evolving next year.”