PORTLAND – Hampden Academy won its sixth mock trial championship in a row Tuesday when it beat the Lewiston High School team in a match held at the Cumberland County Courthouse.
Leigh I. Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, presided over the mock civil trial, which tested the Freedom of Religion clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“It was a very close match,” Hampden coach William Devoe, a Bangor lawyer, said in a phone interview after the win. “Lewiston was easily the most formidable opponent we’ve met all year.”
Hampden has had a mock trial team for 12 years, he said, and won the state contest eight out of the last nine years. It beat Lewiston for the state title in 2006.
“I think our kids did a better job citing the rules of evidence and I think their witness examination was crisper and more focused,” Devoe said in explaining the team’s victory. “Their closings were noteless and they clearly tied the evidence to their arguments.”
Emily Tarbell-Reynolds, 17, of Hampden delivered one of the closing arguments. A senior, she has participated in the program for three years. She said Tuesday that her experience has inspired her to go to law school after college.
“It was amazing,” she said of the team’s win. “The exhilaration of being in the courtroom where the Maine Supreme Judicial Court sits is a feeling I can’t describe. That first time I was there three years ago, I was so nervous, so excited, so ready to show them what I could do. I decided then I want to do this every day.”
Ryan Asalone, 16, a junior, agreed.
“The biggest challenge for us was that their witnesses were really difficult to question,” said Asalone of Hampden. “They didn’t answer yes or no to a question. They just kind of went off on a story.”
The examination of witnesses is timed during the event, according to the rules, so witnesses often try to run out the clock by not directly answering questions.
“This is the best after school activity you can do,” Asalone said. “Getting up there in front of a judge is so much fun. I love it.”
Asalone said he is considering a legal career.
Hampden’s win in Maine means the team will compete in the National Mock Trial Team competition to be held in Atlanta in May.