By: Steve Lash Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer June 3, 2021
The Park School in Pikesville has won the 2021 National High School Mock Trial Championship after a two-hour “courtroom” battle held virtually last month against the Iowa state champion.
Park School qualified for the nationwide event after defeating River Hill High School of Clarksville in March in Maryland’s mock trial competition. This year marked the first time Maryland has sent a team to the national tournament, which was based out of Evansville, Indiana.
“This went beyond our highest expectations,” said Tony Asdourian, head coach of Park School’s team. “It makes me very proud as a coach. They (the team) took it to another level.”
In the championship round, Park School was tasked with defending “Smith Dawson,” a shipping company owner and boater charged with reckless homicide and leaving the scene of an accident after allegedly ramming a fishing boat while speeding to make a delivery.
Iowa City High School, cast as the prosecution, described Dawson as a boater who was “full speed ahead” in trying to provide on-time delivery for her financially troubled company and cared not that she rammed a boat that was in her way, killing fisherman “Jamie Hunter.”
But Park School student Lucy Demsky, in a spirited opening statement, focused on the prosecution’s lack of “a single witness” and on the possibility that a third vessel – a speedboat — on the water that night rammed the fishing boat and killed Hunter.
“All the state has are guesses and guesses just aren’t good enough and they don’t prove guilt,” Demsky told the panel of 11 “jurors,” who also judged the competition.
Aidan Connors — Demsky’s teammate, schoolmate and co-captain — stuck with that defense theme in her closing argument. She stated that the prosecution’s “entire story is based on guesses” regarding what happened on the night of May 4, 2019.
“Possibilities, uncertainty and coincidences just aren’t good enough,” Connors said before reiterating Demsky’s mantra: “Guesses just aren’t good enough and they certainly don’t prove guilt.”
Park School outscored Iowa City High School on nine of the 11 judges’ cards.
U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young of Southern Indiana, who presided over the “trial,” praised the competitors for their stellar presentations, adding that after more than 30 years on the bench he “can tell when someone’s prepared and someone’s not.”
En route to the final round, Park School defeated high schools from Florida, Ohio, Georgia and Illinois.
Once registered for the national competition, the 15-member Park School team received details of the mock case on April 1, which gave them and the other 45 competitors only about six weeks to prepare their arguments and witnesses as both the prosecution and the defense, because each team can be assigned to represent either side in any round of the competition.
“It was all hands on deck” for those weeks of preparation, said Asdourian, who teaches physics and math at Park School. “The kids dove right in.”
Asdourian’s assistant coaches were James Wyda, the federal public defender for Maryland; Maryland District Court Judge Guido Porcarelli; and attorney Matthew B. Rogers of Greenberg Law Offices in Baltimore.
Demsky, who graduates this month, said law school is “definitely not out of the picture” but “as of right now the plan is to go to medical school” after college at Washington University in St Louis.
The annual Maryland State Bar Association Statewide High School Mock Trial Competition, which began in 1983, is sponsored by the Baltimore-based Maryland Youth & the Law, a nonprofit organization that backs programs to teach students about the law and judicial system.