Hunterdon Central Mock Trial Team Makes History at County Finals


Central’s 2023/23 Team!

The Hunterdon Central Mock Trial team made history on Wednesday, January 28th, after winning the county finals competition for the first time in two decades. The team, which ranges from freshmen to seniors, defeated both North Hunterdon High School and Voorhees High School in their competitions so far.

This year’s trial is a wrongful death lawsuit. The case follows a social media challenge gone wrong in which a teenage boy unfortunately passes away. The suit has been brought on by the plaintiff, the boy’s grandparent, and is suing the friend — a known influencer — who filmed his untimely passing. Each competing team has both a plaintiff and a defense side, with two attorneys and three witnesses respectively.

The Hunterdon Central team includes students Madison Law, Laura Shaban, Colin Howell, Emma Howell, Yesim Gokmen, Joey Santarelli, Eva Graziano, Mira Bruen, Ayushi Ghan, and Avery Fulton. Over the course of the first half of the school year, the team has become very close, and many friendships have blossomed. 

At county finals, Laura Shaban and Madison Law came together as co-counsels, while Ayushi Ghan, Yesim Gokmen, and Joey Santarelli played the three witness roles. At county finals, the team represented the Plaintiff side in the case. Going up against the competitive Voorhees who defeated Central the year prior, Central’s team successfully defeated them.

The team is led by coaches Semira Markos and Charles Ray. Semira Markos is a history teacher at Hunterdon Central, and has been coaching the mock trial team for a number of years. Charles Ray, a bar-certified attorney in the state of New Jersey, currently works around the Flemington area. Together, they help to mentor the team, pushing them in the right direction when creating questions and statements in addition to providing advice on courtroom procedure. 

All team members played a part in ensuring success at county finals. Winning is of utmost importance on the team, and is the overarching goal of a mock trial. As they say, practice makes perfect, and that’s exactly what the Hunterdon Central Mock Trial team has done in order to secure the win. Nearly every day leading up to the trial, the team met for hours after school. Even as far back as October, the team has consistently met on a weekly basis. At these meetings, every team member worked tirelessly as they studied case files, exhibits, and rules of procedure along with creating arguments to defend their case in the courtroom. In the end, their hard work paid off when the judges awarded them the win on the night of the 28th.

While the team has made it further than ever, the challenge has really only just begun. They are now preparing for regionals, a new endeavor that nobody, including the coaches, have ever participated in before. In their next competition, one that brings teams from all around the state, they will need to win at least two more trials in order to achieve further advancement into regional finals. The regional competition will be held in New Brunswick, New Jersey at the end of February. 

Restructuring arguments and rearranging team roles is a must in order to ensure success in the next round. According to team member Emma Howell, who played an attorney role, “We plan to come into the courtroom stronger, and more aggressive than ever.”  For many team members, winning this competition, and more importantly, continuing to make history means everything. The team is not ready to back down.  If one thing has become abundantly clear, it is that the team is prepared to knock anyone down who stands in their path to victory.