Sandy Creek High School students took their knowledge from the classroom to the courtroom, where they earned first place in the local mock trial competition on April 8.
The program is a statewide initiative in its 33rd year and provides students in ninth through 12th grades with an opportunity to learn about the judicial system via hands-on experience.
It is designed to teach students basic trial skills, where they conduct direct and cross examinations, present opening and closing statements, think on their feet, analyze legal issues and apply the law to the facts of the case.
Decked out in business attire, the Sandy Creek team looked the part and played the part in the Oswego County Courthouse, serving as attorneys and witnesses for a fictitious case involving hydrofracking and pollution.
Pitted against students from Central Square, the Sandy Creek team played the role of the prosecution, where attorneys Brett Wolfe, Maggie King and Josh Lococo presented a solid case for the people.
The prosecution asserted that Penn HydraGas Inc. and its CEO, Mitchell Tomley, violated the federal Safe Drinking Water Act through the company’s hydrofracking operation in the village of Molivar.
As part of the drilling process, the company was alleged to have used diesel fluids, which were reportedly secreted into the village water supply when a cement casing cracked, causing contamination.
“We have met our burden of proof,” Wolfe said in his closing statement, citing the case of U.S. versus King which involved similar circumstances. “As we have heard here today, the only possible thing that could have polluted the water supply is the direct contamination of diesel fluid into the village of Molivar’s aquifer (due to the illegal hydrofracking operations of Penn HydraGas).”
After hearing from all the witnesses and considering the closing statements from both the defense and prosecution, Judge Walter Hafner commended the students for their preparation and professionalism before ruling in favor of the people.
“I felt all of the witnesses were very well prepared, very astute to the facts and knew very well what the factual pattern was and were able to testify to that end,” Hafner said. “The difference came down to confidence … and the prosecution was more confident in presenting their case, so congratulations.”
With the win, the Sandy Creek team will advance to the regional competition slated for April 26 in Broome County.
The Sandy Creek team adviser is Jonna St. Croix, and the full roster includes Wolfe, Lococo, King, Jay Ivison, Tyler Brown, Liz Sedore, Clarice Thibault, Zach Halsey, Rosie Morgan, Brigid McClusky, Lexi Goodnough, Nick Radford and Bridgette Anderson.