March 8, 2018

Law and Order: GOA Unit

Michael Lurie ‘21

Drugs and murder do not usually find a place in a school environment, but Mr. Stern and Mrs. Steinberg are helping students prepare for an upcoming criminal case regarding just that.
The two teachers have been coaches of Golda Och’s Mock Trial team for five years and are currently helping students prepare tirelessly for a final competition at the end of January. In this year’s case, the state is prosecuting Dana Martin for allegedly distributing a deadly batch of fentanyl to Zachary Simon.
Although every detail of the trial is important to prove the case, this year’s case has proven to have a number of flaws.
“There are a lot of technical issues involving the case this year,” Stern said. “It’s honestly not my favorite.”
Conflicting facts about phone numbers and dates occur throughout the packet, causing confusion amongst the lawyers and witnesses. One piece of evidence even includes the victim, Simon, texting from a phone after his death.
Nevertheless, the legal teams continue as best they can. The prosecution, led by attorneys Theo Deitz-Green, a junior, and Samantha Rigante, a freshman, have a particularly difficult job as the packet provides little direct evidence that Martin sold the drugs to Simon.
“I believe it’s going to be very difficult to win on a guilty verdict,” Stern said, “but knowing who’s involved, knowing how many veterans and skilled people there are… I’m not concerned.”
A guilty verdict does not necessarily mean a win for the prosecution, however. The trial is judged by a panel that awards points in a number of categories for each team. While Stern believes that the team will have great success, he knows that they have even greater potential.
“I would really like to have more time with [them],” he said. “Other schools that we compete against for example, Mock Trial is an elective.”
Even though GOA’s team meets infrequently compared to its competition, students still learn plenty about legal proceedings, including courtroom lingo and the way to address a judge.
“I think that students getting to see this can apply a lot of the lessons to their lives and to the social studies curriculum,” Stern said.
Students said they not only find the information they are learning necessary and useful, but some show interest in pursuing careers in the legal and political fields.
“I thought it would be interesting to see what a lawyer does in criminal cases,” Rigante said, noting she intends to have a career in journalism and finds law extremely relevant to the job. From understanding your rights to understanding a case, the experience Mock Trial gives her and others great insight on what a real-world case might actually be like.
“It’s not always how things are portrayed maybe on T.V.,” Stern said.

The first round of competitions were held January 21 and 22. Both the prosecution and defense teams won and moved on to the next round. Only the prosecution, however, competed in the second round and won again. Finally in the semifinal round, the prosecution faced off against Montclair Kimberley Academy and lost a close game.

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