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Merriwether Middle School Mock Trial Team Performs Well in Regionals Competition, Advances to State Finals in First Year of Return to Competition

Merriwether, SC – The initial set of challenges facing the new Merriwether Middle School (MMS) mock trial team during the 2023 competition season were collectively imposing. Following a complete reboot of the school’s program, the eager group of Mustangs would be the first MMS mock trial team to compete in a number of years.

Foremost among these challenges was the fact that none of the new mock trial members had any experience as attorneys, witnesses, bailiffs or any other role. Added to this, even general knowledge of courtroom procedures was limited.

Challenges accepted.


Led by MMS teacher coach Jennifer Butler and assisted by experienced mock trial coach Denise Jackson and attorney coach Derek Rhodes, who was himself a member of the last MMS Mock Trial Team, the Mustangs worked hard and gradually improved. By the time the state’s regional competition arrived, they performed well and advanced to the state finals competition, being hosted by the Richland County Central Court this weekend on Friday, December 1, 2023, and Saturday, December 2, 2023.

“It’s been an all new type of experience for these students,” stated Butler. “The biggest thing we had to work on was memorization, of course, and then having the students learn how to repeat their lines in character in their assigned roles and not just reading their lines. That’s something that takes some time to learn. This is their first year, and they’ve come a long way.”

Merriwether Middle School mock trial team members include students Addison Lewis (witness), Haddin Harmon (attorney), Peyton Putman (witness), Tristan Duckworth (attorney), Jasmine Bizzle (witness), Ashlynn Densmore (attorney), Madison Belton (witness), Charlotte Carter (attorney), Sarah Johnson (witness), Brennan Logue (attorney), Haiden Harmon (witness), Adelaide Zelmer (attorney), Kiarra Hillary (bailiff) and Lucero Romero-Flores (timekeeper).


This year’s fictional court case – developed by the S.C. Bar Association, which sponsors the annual mock trial competition – involves Forrester Company Flight X1027 that took off from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in April 2021 and crashed shortly after takeoff, claiming the lives of 58 people. The widow of the plane’s pilot is the plaintiff in the lawsuit.


The program got off to a slow start, but Butler says she was elated with student interest.

“We actually started in September, which was almost a month behind when the other schools started, as we worked to restart the program,” commented Butler. “We just wanted to build a solid foundation this season, and we have a lot of sixth and seventh graders who will be coming back next year. I was concerned at first that we wouldn’t have enough students to try out, but there were so many it was actually hard to get down to the final number for a team.”

The Mustangs have far exceeded that foundational goal for this season, pointing to a bright future no matter where they place in the state finals this weekend.

“We have a great group of students and a great group of parents who have given us so much support,” Butler added. “This will be something they will talk about for a long time.”

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