Students place first in Civics First Mock Trial competition


Sofia Pye '21

Sacred Heart Greenwich participates in the 2021 Civics First Mock Trial competition, emerging with a win.

Twenty-six Sacred Heart Greenwich Upper School students participated in the Civics First High School Mock Trial competition January 29.  The Mock Trial team is open to students interested in strategic and legal development in the law system.  This year, due to a large number of incoming members, the Sacred Heart Mock Trial team members split into a Red Team and a White Team, competing against four other schools in Connecticut.  After a day of a virtual trial, the Sacred Heart Red Defense Team won against Wilton High School in Wilton, Connecticut, advancing the team to the regional competition February 26. 

This year, team members gained trial experience virtually via Zoom when they competed against Ellington High School, Fairfield Warde High School, Westin High School, and Wilton High School.  The students on the Red Prosecution Team were seniors Emily Newton, Eloise Moulton, Jenna Kimmel, Karina Adams, Lily Santangelo, and Piper Gilbert, and the Defense side included seniors Annabelle Hartch, Delaney Coleman, Mary Clare Marshall, and Ursula Vollmer, junior Mimi Lee, and sophomore Genevieve Wichmann.  The members of the White Prosecution Team were senior Ceci Duncan, junior Angélique Wheeler, and freshmen Catherine Ruf, Julia Randolph, Lindsay Taylor, and Rory Keller.  Sophomores Molly Kriskey and Gabrielle Wheeler, and freshmen Caroline Hartch, Chloe Gaudelet, Clare Murray, and Sophie Halaby were on the respective Defense side.  During the trial, senior Sydney Duncan was the timekeeper for the Red Team and junior Isabelle Sciacca and freshman Charlotte Flanagan were the timekeepers for the White Team. 

Civics First began in 1976 as a private, non-profit association that promotes law-related educational programs in Connecticut public, private, and parochial schools.  Participating students think critically and gain public speaking skills while learning about the Constitution and the rule of law, according to

Twenty-six of the Mock Trial team’s members participated in the competition January 29.  Courtesy of

Although the competition was virtual this year, students were able to adapt to the new environment and compete against one another.  This year’s case was an adaptation of the “State of Connecticut v. Wilbur Merritt IV.”  The trial’s hypothetical scenario focused on a group of wealthy families from Hartford, Connecticut who held a formal costume party at the Mark Twain House.  Ms. Prudence Porter was a waitress serving dinner at the party.  Her 17-year-old daughter, Miss Sigourney Porter, attended that party as a guest of her best friend, Miss Leslie Crandall, and Miss Crandall’s parents.  However, when the party was over, Ms. Porter could not find her daughter, but after searching all night, the police found her body in the Connecticut River. 

The Mock Trial team began preparing for the competition in September 2020.  Similar to a real trial, the Mock Trial competition had a plaintiff, a person who brings a case against another in a court of law, and a defendant, the individual accused in a court of law by the plaintiff.  Annabelle, a lawyer for the defendant, reflected on the most important aspect of her role.  

“I think that most people would say the most important aspect of being a lawyer is the questioning of each witness, meaning both direct and cross examination, ” Annabelle said.  “However, I would say that anybody can easily create solid questions.  In order to be a really good lawyer, you must master objections.  Objections are hard because you have to think on your feet.  You can’t prepare what objections you’re going to use during a trial, but they make a huge impact. You also have to be confident when objecting, or even fighting off an objection from an opposing lawyer because you need to make a clear case as to why your objection is pertinent (if your objecting) or unfounded (if someone is objecting against you).”

The Mock Trial team meets once every two weeks during the 45-minute club period.  Prior to the competition, students involved in Mock Trial added extra meetings during the lunch period and evening Zoom calls for additional preparation.  The team also spoke with Ms. Lucia Maxwell, a lawyer at Roam Immigration, to help review the case for the competition. 

“We didn’t have to memorize our notes this year which allowed us to focus on the substance of the case,” Annabelle said.  “We also had amazing help from an outside attorney named Ms. Lucia Maxwell.  Ms. Maxwell graciously donated her time to help our team.  She attended almost every meeting, looked over all our questions, gave us suggestions and pointers on all the logistics of the case.  We couldn’t have done it without her.”

Throughout the competition, students have to recall evidence correctly and confidently from previous team reviews.  Similarly, witnesses have to recall the facts of their affidavit.  Delaney played a defense witness named Ms. Jamie Hale, an expert in social psychology and the campus Greek system.  She spoke to the positives of a virtual competition, in contrast to previous years where it took place at the Stamford Courthouse.  

The Sacred Heart Greenwich Mock Trial team competes virtually in this year’s Civics First competition.  Courtesy of

“Because the case was based on focused psychological pressure on the defendant and secret societies, I had to recall many facts about my witness’s expertise those that field,” Delaney said.  “Being on Zoom this year was less intimidating than sitting in a courtroom in the Stamford Courthouse in front of many experienced lawyers, but it was such a rewarding experience to get a win this year after working so hard for many years.”

As co-captains of the Mock Trial team, Annabelle, Lily, and Eloise led the Red Defense Team to victory against Wilton High School, winning by two points.  The Red Prosecution Team tied with Ellington High School.  Overall, in the Red Defense Team matchup against Wilton, Mimi won second best lawyer, Delaney won second best witness, and Ursula came in third for best witness.  In the Red Prosecution Team matchup against Ellington High School, Lily won best lawyer, Piper won best witness, and Karina placed second for best witness.

This year, the Mock Trial team saw an increase in participants.  The 12 seniors in the club continue to host meetings and group discussions, imparting their knowledge and experience to the underclassmen on the team.

“We were able to have a team of almost all senior veterans of the club because of the sheer number of people involved in the Mock Trial,” Annabelle said.  “This year our club had over 30 members, 26 of which actively participated in the Civics First competition.  This allowed for great depth in our team.”

Featured Image by Sofia Pye ‘21