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KC Mock Trial Wins National Second Place
Linda Mah
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KC Mock Trial Wins National Second Place

Kalamazoo Central's Mock Trial Team Continued Its Winning Legacy

Kalamazoo Central High School Mock Trial won second place in the National High School Mock Trial Championships in Hartford, Conn., in May.

The second-place national win topped a year that included first place wins at the regional and state mock trial competitions. This was Kalamazoo Central’s 19th trip to the national contest. The team won the national championship in 1996 and placed second in the nation for three years in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Last year, the team finished 11th in the nation.

“All our students performed magnificently and we have every reason to be extremely proud of each of them,” Francis Bilancio said of all the Kalamazoo Central students who participated in Mock Trial last year.

Approximately 3,200 teams competed across the nation in regional and state competitions. Forty-eight teams competed in the national event. After two days of competition in Hartford, Kalamazoo and North Carolina advanced to the Final Blue Ribbon Round, which North Carolina took in a split decision.

This year’s case revolved around a teacher who was stunned by a taser by police as she ran to catch a commuter train home. The teacher was leaving a baseball game and running to catch a train at the same time a police officer was searching the area for an armed robbery suspect. The officer claims he shouted a warning for the woman to halt and to raise her arms. The teacher alleges that the officer used excessive force and the department’s ill-defined policies made the officer and the department liable for her injuries.

Among the questions the mock trial participants had to consider in their arguments in the case included: Were the officer’s actions reasonable and justified? Was the officer and the department responsible for the teacher’s damages? Did the officer act in a reasonable way to protect the greater good?

Kalamazoo Central sent two teams, the “Maroons” and the “Giants” to the regional competition. The teams competed against each other in the final round at regionals, with the “Giants” taking first place. “Giants” team members are Nicholas Sosulski, Julia Kemple-Johnson, Olivia Burrel, Nathan Scholten, Rosemary Sidwell, and Rochelle Sims. The Giants went to the national competition.

“Maroons” team members were: Andrew Cichy, Zachary Cook, Connor Havenaar, Jeremiah Johnson, Malcolm Jones, Benedict Nsenga, Gurman Rai, Charity Sidwell, Madison Van Natter, and Sydney Woodcock.

In mock trial competitions, teams of students take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses and present arguments and testimony in legal cases before a panel of judges. One judge presides over the trial, while the others form a jury. The students develop an understanding of the law, court proceedings, and the legal system. They also build skills in listening, speaking and reasoning.

The Kalamazoo Central High School Mock Trial team was founded in 1986 by retired coach Mikell Thurston Griffith and is currently coached by Bilancio. The team has won 18 state championships, more than any other team in America.

Bilancio was assisted this year by attorney coaches Cody Crane, Tibble Law Office, P.C.; REh A. Starks, Starks Law, P.L.C.; Nicholas J. Spigiel, Kreis Enderle; Joshua C. Hilgart, Legal Aid; Morgan Schut, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C.; Maggie Rucker, Legal Aid. Student Amanda Sidwell served as coach assistant.

The team also receives support from the Kalamazoo County Trial Lawyers Association; the Kalamazoo County Bar Association; the Kalamazoo County Family Bar Association; the Young Lawyers Section; Hills Law Office; Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone; and Kalamazoo County Ninth Circuit Court.


The Kalamazoo Central Mock Trial Giants Team pose in the Connecticut Supreme Court Courthouse, where the final round of the National High School Mock Trial Championships was litigated. Students are, from left, Conner Havenaar, Zachary Cook, Rosemary Sidwell, Nicholas Sosulski, Rochelle Sims, Nathan D. Scholten, Julia Kemple-Johnson, and Olivia Burrel.

Photo courtesy of Christie Sidwell.

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