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Brutal battles in mock trial

By: Shelby Swanson 

In a dim, quietly lit conference room in a remote corner of the Raleigh Convention Center, two sides battle over a murder trial. Countless pieces of evidence are entered, pointed objections are raised, and witnesses are brutally crossed; all of this over the case People of the State of Illinois v. Alex Buckley. The two main characters involved in this year’s Mock Trial case are Alex Buckley and Carly Walsh. Buckley is the defendant, charged with setting a high school dorm on fire and killing Carly Walsh, who was trapped inside.    

“What I like about this case is that it’s a double charge,” said Payton Martin, a legislative delegate. “Last year was too [much about] criminal hazing and manslaughter, but this year the charges are arson and first-degree murder, so it’s a higher-stakes case. Buckley, a senior in high school, has a history of aggression, and was second in the class to Carly Walsh, thus providing motive. These two pieces are hammered in by the prosecution, which seems to be the favored side by most Mock Trial participants.

“It’s really interesting how they set up motive in this case,” said Senior District Attorney Marylynn Flowers. “It has to do with class rank, the defendant’s family and aggression. It’s definitely a more complicated case.” In comparison to last year, many delegates also pointed out the preponderance of evidence in this year’s case. In total, there are 12 different exhibits that can be entered and discussed on either side of the case. They include an arrest report, text messages between characters, and even an empty gasoline can recovered from the crime scene.

“I like this case because I think there’s so much intricate evidence,” said Legislative delegate Alice Chatterjee. “The connections between the evidence and all the different affidavits of the witnesses mean that every time you re-do the trial you notice so many new things.”

This massive amount of evidence is one of the many reasons that Kate Frucht and other Legislative officers chose this year’s case in preparation for the Y&G 2020 conference, but it certainly has some drawbacks. “Ever since we’ve been here, we’ve had criminal cases about murder, but we’ve never had issues with running out of time,” said Attorney General Kate Frucht. “This year, we have people trying to enter every single piece of evidence and they just don’t have the time.”

Either way, it is clear that Mock Trial participants are enjoying this year’s case and growing their legal skills by debating it. All delegates interested in Mock Trial should consider applying to participate next year and can find more information at: https://www.ncyag.org/programs/hs-youth-legislature/mock-trial