Mock Trial offers experiences outside of the norm

Damaris Hembry remembers her time in the club

Standing apart from the usual slate of clubs such as Chess Club or Drama Club, Mock Trial offered a unique experience. The Mock Trial club was a group that simulated courtroom trials for students interested in law.  Alumni Damaris Hembry, a 1997 PHS graduate, says the club offered something outside of some of the other extracurriculars she was involved in. 

“I had a lot of fun with it… I was heavily involved in sports and music. So that was my main focus, but this was something outside of that,” Hembry said. 

At the beginning of a new case, attendees were given the facts of the case and the character who would play a role in the case as an attorney or witness. They then would research the case and create opening statements, questions for cross-examination, and more. Hembry remembered a certain case that was inspired by West Side Story. 

“We took the whole concept of having a dance that was desegregated… an integrated school dance,” Hembry said.  

The character she played, a president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was important to her in many ways. 

“I come from Tacoma schools where there was a lot of diversity… and I was literally the only mixed-race person [at PHS] at the time and was also one of maybe 15 people of color in the school,” Hembry said.  

On her dad’s side of the family, she had a personal connection to the role she would play. 

“[M]y character had played an integral role in fighting for the integration for the dance. It was personal for me really, because… I have my white family, I have a black family and I knew both families… And it was really cool because I was able to tell both my grandma and grandpa, my dad’s side, the black side, and I was able to tell him what I was doing with the Mock Trial,” Hembry said.  

Her character helped her connect to heroes of the civil rights era and her own family’s past. “And so, for me… it gave me maybe a little bit of feeling of what it might have been like. You know, for some people fighting those civil rights fights back in the day,” Hembry said.  

Today, Hembry works for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and her daily life is still impacted by her experiences in the club. 

“It’s interesting now because currently at my job, I work for the legal department…” Hembry said. “I’m tied into the legal process because when we when our facility gets subpoenas from the attorneys, whether it’s the attorney general or the defense attorneys for our residents, our team has to read the subpoena and see what they’re asking for… We essentially prepare all of the records that will be presented in court and we also prepare for the forensics team that is out on the island to do their evaluations as well.” 

Hembry says that her experiences in Mock Trial have continued to help her in her current career path. 

“It’s actually kind of interesting that my being involved in Mock Trial and seeing that stuff firsthand […] now here I am and realizing I’m involved in in the legal process in a sense,” Hembry said. 

Reflecting on her time in the club, Hembry continued by commending the person who created Mock Trial.  

“For someone like me who you know had no ambition towards going into the legal field, it gave me a different perspective on things. Mock Trial was one of my favorite things while I was in school,” Hembry said.