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Fletcher High Mock Trial Team Going To Nationals

Fletcher High School students are hoping a judge will rule in their favor next month.

That's because, the Neptune Beach school’s state-champion mock-trial team is about to square off against 51 teams in a national competition.

Fletcher senior Emily Shapiro delivered the opening argument for her school’s mock trial team back in March when it won state.

“It’s terrifying, honestly,” she said. “Because your mouth is talking so much faster than your brain is working that you don’t know what you’re going to say.”

She said she slipped up at the state competition.

“I remember my eyes probably grew 10 sizes too big.” she said. “But I corrected myself before I even realized what I did.”

Still, the team won all five state rounds, arguing a case about cyber bullying at the Orange County Courthouse in Orlando.

On Wednesday, the team was practicing after school for the case they’ll argue next month at Nationals in Boise, Idaho. The students were dressed ready for court, donning jackets, heels and ties.

Freshman Cory Gann was testifying on the witness stand and senior Devon Roddel was questioning him in a classroom set up like a real courtroom. The team’s job is to prove the defendant poisoned some sheep.

Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

This year will be the third time Fletcher’s gone to nationals in the past 20 years. In 2014, the team placed 11th. Bruce Wouters, the team’s advisor, said it’s impressive because a lot of the teams competing at state are private schools, with more resources.

Fletcher’s team relies on donations and fundraising to pay for travel expenses for the competition, he said. The team has raised nearly half of the $10,000, said Duval County spokeswoman Laureen Ricks.

Sophomore Sarah McWilliams said she was concered how well the team would do because Ed Lange, the teacher who built the courtroom and led Fletcher’s trial team for more than 20 years, suddenly died last year.

“I feel like we know he’s with us,” McWilliams said. “There have been so many signs that he’s with us and he would be proud to know that we’ve come this far.”

The team, however, might have an advantage with the sheep case: One of their attorney volunteer advisors herded sheep before he came to Fletcher.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.