Mock Trail Team Qualifies for State

Mock Trail Team Qualifies for State

Simone Britto, Staff Writer

As the Miramonte Mock Trial Team prepares for the state championships, few students even know that the team exists. Undefeated and ranked first in Contra Costa County, Miramonte’s mock trial team has advanced to the California state championship competition eight times in the last 10 years.

In addition to the team coming in first in the county, many Miramonte students received individual awards.

Mock trial is an imitation of a real trial, in which students act as the lawyers, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, journalists or artists. This year, freshman Jonathan Zhou won the award for Outstanding Courtroom Clerk.

Journalists and artists compete in separate competitions to write the best article about the case or draw the best picture of the courtroom proceedings. Junior Calvin Larsen won Outstanding Courtroom Artist.

On the team, there are three defense lawyers and three prosecution lawyers. At the beginning of the year, the lawyers work with their coach to draft direct and cross examination questions, as well as closing and opening statements. Each examination is anywhere from two to five minutes long, and attempts to expose the main facts of the trial. Junior Connor Meckfessel won  the award for Outstanding Closing Statement, sophomore Fatima Hasanain for Outstanding Pre-Trial Attorney, junior Caie Kelley for Outstanding Direct Examination and senior Brian De Luna for Outstanding Cross Examination.

Each side also has four witnesses who are responsible for memorizing their case packets of information about their character. Junior Lina Mathkour and sophomore Daniel Ginsburg both won Outstanding Witness awards for their roles.

High schools all over the country participate in mock trial. In California, teams compete against other schools in their county, arguing as either the defense or prosecution.

Real lawyers and judges volunteer their time to score trials, giving each participant a score out of five. After the trial, all of the members’ scores are added together and the team with the highest overall score wins. To advance to the state competition, a school must come in first in their county.

“The scoring system is important because it means that everyone matters to the outcome of the case,” Mathkour said.

Twice a week during February, 30 dedicated members of the mock trial team spent around two and a half hours arguing their case at the Contra Costa County Courthouse in Martinez, coached by attorney Luke Ellis and teacher Jennifer Fennell.

The team argues the same case for the whole season.

This year, the trial is about a hit-and-run driver. The defendant, played on the Miramonte team by junior Evan McAvenia, is charged with driving home after a swim meet and hitting a bicyclist who was on her way home from work, but failing to stop at the scene of the accident. The victim, played by junior Cali Fehrnstrom, suffers permanent damage to her knee.

The prosecution has to prove that the defendant knew she was in an accident and that she was indeed the driver. There was another person in the vehicle who she claims was driving.

Each state argues a different case, and if Miramonte were to advance to the national competition, they would have to prepare for a new case.

Because they argue the same case every time, students have time to perfect their speeches. “My favorite part is working our witnesses or the closing statement. Once the memorization is over, which is the trickiest part for me, the trial is actually a lot of fun,” Kelley said.

Though the majority of the team also takes Public Speaking, those who don’t are welcome. “Some of our best people never took public speaking,” Mathkour said. “It’s a really great group of people and you learn a lot from it.”

This year, the state tournament conflicts with Junior Prom and the Congress National Qualifying Public Speaking tournament. Alternates that have been training all season will take over for those choosing not to attend the state competition.

Most juniors will not be attending the state competition in favor of prom, but lawyer junior Ethan Miles is not. “We’ve been working so hard all season for this. The camaraderie of the team is truly astounding, and I don’t regret choosing State over J-Prom at all,” Miles said.