In the Alaska Supreme Court: Sitka High Mock Trial state champions (l to r) Evan Harrington, Ben Gordon, Zephyr Feryok, Justine Webb, Ryan Apathy, Coach Stacey Woolsey, Soren White, Sam Woolsey.

Sitka High’s Mock Trial team will represent Alaska at the national tournament later this spring.

The Sitka squad went undefeated in the state meet held at the Anchorage courthouse February 1 – 3.

The team competed in a total of six trials over the course of three days. Seniors Zephyr Feryok, Evan Harrington, and Sam Woolsey served as Sitka’s legal team.

All three are members of Sitka’s state championship debate team. Harrington says debate and mock trial require similar skills.

“Most of the lawyer team also does debate. Everything you learn in mock trial for being a lawyer – especially cross-examination – really helps for debate also, which has its own life purposes.”

Debate and mock trial are sometimes described as being like track and cross-country. Debaters develop detailed plans, and use arguments like chess pieces. In mock trial – like real trials – witnesses and events are unpredictable, and anything can happen.

Justine Webb is one the Sitka High team’s four witnesses. A witness’s main job is to be credible, and that requires…

“Acting. And you memorize an affidavit. So, there’s some drama stuff in there. It’s not just all attorney things.”

Webb and fellow senior Soren White were Sitka’s expert witnesses; sophomores Ryan Apathy and Ben Gordon gave testimony as a drug counselor and a hired hit-man. All received top scores for their performances, and were critical to Sitka’s win.

Mock trial cases are developed by the Alaska Bar Association. This year’s case was a civil/criminal hybrid: A business embezzlement that allegedly evolved into murder-for-hire.

Senior Sam Woolsey says that it’s no secret that mock trial is designed to interest students in the legal profession. The attorneys and judges supervising the event are among the state’s best.

“The judges are really excellent. In a Drama/Debate meet, sometimes you’ll come out of your round, see your ballot, and say, I really disagree with how that judge decided things. In a mock trial, for example, our final round was judged by two supreme court justices of Alaska and several federal judges. Anything that’s on the ballot when you have a professional judge judging you is always interesting. They have good judgment!”

Sitka High’s mock trial program is in its sixth year. The team took second in state last year, with legal guidance from the late Bruce Horton, Sitka’s long-time magistrate. This year, the team relied on local public defender Jude Pate for advice, and conducted a full practice trial under Sitka Superior Court Judge David George.

The Sitka team’s participation at state was funded by a $1,000 donation from the Sitka Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant, and Retailer’s Association (CHARR). The team this week received a check for $500 from the Tanana Lawyer’s Association to support travel to the national competition, which will be held in early May in Albuquerque, New Mexico.