Moments after calling its second witness to the stand last Thursday, the mock trial team for the Bryn Mawr School saw the bad news flash on a card from the other side of the room: They only had three minutes left to interview witnesses, with one still to go.
Sophia Adams, a senior from Baltimore City College’s mock trial team, which defeated the Bryn Mawr team last Thursday in the final round of the Baltimore circuit for this year’s mock trial competition, acknowledged that the opponents running out of time was a significant factor.
“If the witness isn’t giving you the information you want, you can sometimes just keep going without them saying anything new,” Adams said after the match. “I think they were very comprehensive with what they asked, which isn’t bad, but it cut away at their time. I’m really proud we won, because Bryn Mawr is a great competitor, and they taught us a lot.”
In the Baltimore final round of this year’s mock trial competition, run by Maryland Youth and the Law, Baltimore City College, which was in the state finals last year, went up against Bryn Mawr, an all-girls school. The trial was held at the Baltimore City District Court in Wabash and heard by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Karen Friedman.
Baltimore City College represented the fictional plaintiff Jordan Wolfe, a local police officer who filed a complaint against the defendant, Drew Shepherd, who was represented by Bryn Mawr.
In this case, used throughout the 2019-20 mock trials, Wolfe alleges that Shepherd made false and defamatory statements about her in a news article after Shepherd was arrested by Wolfe for possessing more than 10 grams of marijuana. The plaintiffs requested $100,00 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages from the defense.
The defense argued that Wolfe didn’t have enough probable cause to search Shepherd’s car for the marijuana and claimed that Wolfe wanted to get payback on Shepherd for their time in high school, when Shepherd got away with cheating on multiple occasions.
The plaintiffs argued that the strong odor of marijuana and the green flakes on the front seat were enough to warrant a search. They said that Shepherd’s comments in the media caused Wolfe to lose the respect of her fellow officers and caused her to miss a pay raise. The event also led to significant mental and emotional distress, which required therapy for Wolfe, the plaintiffs argued.
Although the defense ultimately lost, students from Bryn Mawr said they were proud of their efforts, making it further in the competition than ever before.
“It’s really fun to get to this level, it feels so real,” said Bryn Mawr sophomore Sloane Huey. “I think it at least makes you think about wanting to become a lawyer.”
This was the first year the competition added a 42-minute time limit for each side of the trial. Sloane and teammate Naomi Fotenos agreed that it can be tricky to avoid running out of time.
Friedman, who heard the case, explained to students that while time limits aren’t used in actual trials, it’s still important to consider the time element.
“You need to be smart as a lawyer with how you use your time, because juries have limited patience and judges have even worse patience,” Friedman said after the trial.
While there were separate graders who ultimately picked Baltimore City College as the victor, Friedman said if it were her call, she would have ruled in favor of Bryn Mawr.
Following this round, Baltimore City College will go on to the regional competitions and have a chance to compete in the state championships.