Trials and tribulations

Ambitious seniors form talented Mock Trial team from the ground up


Camden Brazile

Prosecution team captain Connor Goodman consults with Attorney coach Steve Alheim, asking last minute questions and advice during preliminary trial at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Clayton.

Camden Brazile, Copy Editior

A murder trial is unfolding for an entire courtroom to witness. Two lawyers pace the floor. They’re succinct, persuasive, and they command the attention of the room with purpose and conviction. Their questions raise eyebrows and turn heads, and their statements create an unmistakable trepidation from their opponents, who can be seen frantically shuffling papers and attempting to keep up; as the pendulum of justice swings back and forth, a man’s life hangs in the balance. These lawyers are seniors Connor Goodman and Sean Gerty, who are the co-founders and head lawyers for the De Smet Jesuit Mock Trial Team, which began in the fall of 2018. At the end of their Junior year, Goodman and Gerty approached A.P. History teacher Thomas Sothers with the bold idea of putting together an elite team of De Smet’s best and brightest and engaging in high-intensity competitions and trials with opposing schools, with the ultimate goal being a state championship.

At the beginning of the next school year, Gerty and Goodman began strategically recruiting lawyers and witnesses, and with so many students interested, two teams were formed.

“I think we got a lot of smart and capable guys, the natural intellect is definitely very high,” Goodman said. “Most of the guys have a very good work ethic.”
The two seniors, assisted by Sothers, practice and work together about nine hours a week, meeting more often than any scheduled class at De Smet. Goodman and Gerty both run one of the teams respectively, and manage the witnesses and lawyers as well put together their own statements and witness examinations.

“It’s really difficult, you have to kind of prioritize the other people before yourself,” Gerty said. “It wasn’t getting my work finished that I was worried about but it was making sure everyone understood the work they were doing and when they were finished it was something they could be proud of.”

Many of the lawyers and witnesses look towards Gerty and Goodman as an example of how to structure their arguments and courtroom behavior.

“I’m just working as hard as I can,” Goodman said. “I’m trying to take some initiative and show leadership and show them that this is something worth caring about.”

With the state competition approaching, the two teams run frequent exhibitions against each other in order to refine questions and research courtroom procedure. Goodman and Gerty have learned alongside the other attorneys how to object, cross a witness, submit evidence, and approach the judge. To assist with their coaching, the captains recruited Henry Autrey, who is a District Judge and De Smet Jesuit alum. After the preliminary trials, Autrey believed that both team’s hard work yielded multiple dividends in the courtroom.

“The work of the teams was classic Spartan work,” Autrey said. “They put in a lot of time and effort. Everybody listened and prepared well, and that turned out a really good result.”
Autrey also said both senior captains demonstrate the leadership skills necessary for the competitive atmosphere of a courtroom.

“Each one of those guys has their own style, but I think they have the respect and camaraderie of everyone on the mock trial team in general, specifically for both of their teams, prosecution and defense,” Autrey said “I think [Goodman and Gerty] held up their end of the bargain and provided solid, good leadership for everybody.”

With the first season under wraps, Goodman and Gerty hope to continue their legacy and believe the mock trial team will continue to learn and prosper in the following years after their graduation.