LEWISTON — Wednesday was not the first time Lewiston High School senior Amelia Wedderburn was charged with a crime she had not committed.

In fact, it has happened so many times over the past three years that Wedderburn has become an expert at defending herself at trials.

Wedderburn played the role of Pat Peterson, a college student charged with manslaughter and hazing, at the Maine High School Mock Trial Program championship, sponsored by the Maine State Bar Association.

By the end of the competition, Lewiston and Cape Elizabeth high schools were tied at 225. However, the Capers won the judges’ tiebreaking vote 2-1, earning the state title.

Lewiston High School’s mock trial team competed Wednesday against Cape Elizabeth for the state title, losing a tiebreaker by one vote. From left: Cadence Nadeau and Hayden LeCompte; middle row, Cody Dionne, Gabriella Thomas, Amelia Wedderburn, Margaret Krantz and Olivia Crowley; back row, Dominic Pelletier, Ethan Rinko, Samuel Courtemanche and Joshua Brito. Submitted photo

“We were really aiming to win, just because it would have been the seniors’ final hurrah,” senior Cadence Nadeau said. “It just so happened that we tied. Because one of their ballots, they won by one point, they got two ballots compared to our one.”

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Andrew Mead voted in favor of a Lewiston win, while U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine Darcie McElwee and lawyer Hilary Billings supported Cape Elizabeth.

Each team is composed of 11 students, who are scored on how well they perform their role in the trial and whether they present the opening statement, conduct a cross examination or pose as a witness to the crime.

In this competition’s scenario, Peterson is charged after a student dies during a pledging ceremony for a student social organization.

“It’s very stressful because a lot of the time the case that I get doesn’t work with me. It always works against me,” Wedderburn said. “And so, when I am put on trial where I have no idea the questions that are going to be asked, it’s kind of hard sometimes to wiggle my way through all of the things I normally say in my statement, but I always seem to find a way out of them.”

Faced with a series of questions by the prosecution, Wedderburn argued the pledging activities were not inherently dangerous, placing the blame on the student who acted recklessly after consuming alcohol.

“All the three years I’ve been on the team, I’ve always been against the state,” Wedderburn said. “I’m always on trial and always have to prove my innocence, and I think because I’ve always had to have that role for my first two years, it’s helped a lot my final year of getting asked the tough questions.”

Lewiston last won the state title four years ago. This was the first time since then that Lewiston competed in the state final.

“Even the most experienced people in the team had never seen something like this before, so we were all even a little nervous,” senior Samuel Courtemanche said. “The sophomores have never seen playoffs like this before. Everyone was excited to have their first go at it, and people were really motivated.”

While the competition was remote, the students and their coaches were able to be together for the competition.

“Last year was way harder because we were each in our own spaces,” Nadeau said. “I feel like that really brought us down. We didn’t really have the (morale). It was harder for us. This year, we actually got to do the trial all together, so our successes we celebrate together, our problems we solve together. It really helped with our success.”

Michelle Crowley coaches the Lewiston team, which is also advised by lawyers Amy Dietrich, Paul Dionne and Ron Lebel. Crowley was a member of the school’s first team in 1994, later returning to the high school to teach.

“These diverse groups of kids, you know some of them are really into sports, some are not at all,” Crowley said. “All different types of kids in different friend groups coming together to work together. That’s the best. They become friends forever because of it.”


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