Mock Trial Triumphs Over Undefeated Dons

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Ari Stein, Staff Writer

Last week, the Miramonte Mock Trial team won the Contra Costa Mock Trial Competition against the undefeated Acalanes Dons, finding the fictional 19-year-old Jamie Hayes guilty of murder. “Winning the county championship felt unreal,” senior Lucy Portnoff said. “Months of effort, hard work, energy, dedication and commitment went into this competition from every single member of this team, and this accomplishment really felt like proof of our learning and teamwork this season.”

The Miramonte mock trial team had been preparing since September for the county mock trial competition. “We have a great attorney, Coach Luke Ellis, who helps us prepare our case and is also just an amazing resource,” senior Catherine de Luna said. “The Government and Economics teacher Jamie Mather is our teacher coach and has been an awesome new addition to the program.”

Before the final round, there had been six other competitions: four preliminary and two elimination. After the first four rounds, the eight teams with the best records moved to the quarterfinal rounds, and the winning teams from quarters advanced to semifinals. This year at finals, the two remaining teams, Miramonte and Acalanes, competed to represent Contra Costa County at state. Normally every team has both a prosecution and defense; however, for the final it was Miramonte’s prosecution against Acalanes’ defense. The Acalanes Dons were undefeated, but Miramonte still emerged victorious.

Mock trial combines elements of law, debate and acting with the purpose of enhancing analytical and communication skills as well as developing teamwork amongst students. At the start of the season, students received a packet released by the Constitutional Rights Foundation that contained the facts of a hypothetical criminal case. Teams of students then took on roles as lawyers, courtroom staff and witnesses, and then prepared their arguments for their case.

This year, the hypothetical case was about a 19-year-old college student named Jamie Hayes, a member of the track team. He was on a front porch one night when he saw a member of his team tackled and strangled by a campus security guard across the street. Jamie grabbed a bat and ran across the street. He swung the bat at the security guard, and two weeks later the guard died. Jamie stood trial for murder.

Retrying the same case, Miramonte’s Mock Trial team will compete at State Finals in Sacramento on March 18-20. On Feb. 25 at the Martinez County Courthouse, several Miramonte students won additional, county wide accolades. Seniors Daniel Ginsburg, Catherine de Luna, and Ben Tarkoff and junior Louie Kangetter each won accolades for outstanding attorney. Senior Lucy Portnoff received a $1,000 Mock Trial scholarship. Sophomore Adam Aguilera won for Outstanding Bailiff. In addition, senior Ilene Drobny and freshmen Jessica Valentine, Hailey Ozaeta and Aidan Turner won for outstanding witness.