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Park School wins mock trial championship

The Park School of Baltimore has won the state mock trial championship for the second year in a row, beating out Rockville’s Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy.

Students from The Park School of Baltimore and Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy take their places moments before the start of Friday’s mock trial in Annapolis.

In a courtroom at the Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building in Annapolis on Friday, The Park School played the prosecution, seeking to convict a (fictional) high school soccer coach of reckless endangerment and child abuse for making “bad decision, after bad decision, after bad decision” — as 18-year-old Park School senior Eli Block said repeatedly in his opening statement — when she held a grueling practice during a heat advisory and three students collapsed from heat exhaustion.

Court of Appeals Judge Sally D. Adkins presided over the trial, and with the help of two assistants chose the winner based on performance rather than the outcome of the case.

“It’s always inspiring to see how talented these students are,” said Adkins.

The prosecution argued that girls’ soccer coach Drew Hunter violated school policies regarding how long students can practice during a heat advisory, which led to three students being hospitalized for heat exhaustion, and one, Kendall Kneifen, suffering permanent brain damage.

The defense argued that Hunter simply lost track of time, and that Kneifen’s injuries were due to a pre-existing medical condition.

Adkins found Hunter guilty of reckless endangerment, but not guilty of child abuse.

Park School Mock Trial Team Coach Tina Forbush said the students spend “hours and hours” doing drills where they practice everything from direct examinations to closing arguments.

Park School senior Daniel Stern, 18, said he has considered going to law school, but participates in the mock trials because “I’m a really competitive person.”

“I like sports but I’m better at this than any sport,” he said.

As for Block, “What I like about this is how it teaches me to respond on my feet,” he said.

The Citizenship Law-Related Education Program sponsors the competition in cooperation with the Maryland State Bar Association and the Maryland Judicial Conference.

Teams compete in an average of 10 to 12 mock trials before making it to the state championship.

Nearly 50,000 students have participated in the mock trial competition since it began in 1983.