Mock Trial Team Places 3rd in Contra Costa County Competition


Chaya Tong

Members of the prosecution and defense team smile for a photo after their trial against Monte Vista.

Alisha Nazar, Staff Writer

Miramonte’s Mock Trial team of 17 students placed third in the county, according to the Contra Costa County Office of Education website. This year’s fictional case was the People versus Matsumoto, a murder trial where defendant, Bailey Matsumoto is on trial for killing their spouse, Taylor Matsumoto. The Contra Costa County Mock Trial Competition took place in the Martinez Courthouse on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout late Jan and Feb. This experience allowed students to gain exposure to different positions in the law field. 

Competitions take place in Jan and Feb. Participants began meeting every Tuesday in August of 2019 to discuss strategies. Students auditioned for a variety of roles such as a defense attorney, prosecution attorney or pretrial attorney, witness, bailiff, or a clerk. “I always loved acting, and wanted to get involved with it at school. I found out about the mock trial program through the Matador news, and decided to go to the meeting last year. I had so much fun, that I decided to stay and join the team,” lead attorney for prosecution, junior Chaya Tong said. 

As time gets closer to competitions, more practices are held where students rehearse parts, get coached by attorney coaches, and receive feedback from their teacher coach, Joel Compton. This is Compton’s third year as Mock trial teacher coach. He sets up the regular meetings with students and meets with the attorney coaches outside of that. The team participated in mock trial scrimmages against other schools. “The scrimmages allow us to practice direct and cross examinations with objections, which is what it would actually be like in a trial,” witness, junior Isabelle Zezima-Deutsch said. 

Each student plays a different role during the trial. “I am a Defense Lawyer. I perform a direct examination, a cross examination, and I deliver the closing argument,” junior, Evelyn LaVelle said. “I am the prosecution’s expert witness: Dr. Jules Jackson. I testify that Taylor (the victim) was struck on the back of the head causing Taylor to drown,” freshman Jessica Milmoe said. 

Students: Sarah Svahn, Preston Nibley, Adrian Nibley, Chaya Tong, and Eva Winter were also given a “honorable mention” for Judges’ Choice Awards. Students: Liam Bartosiewick, Clara Holland, and Michelle Giovinazzo received awards for their portrayal of witnesses. Preston Nibley won an award for his work as a pretrial defense attorney and Giovinazzo won for pretrial prosecution. Eva Winter received an award for her delivery of the prosecution opening statement and Mallika Dandamudi was awarded for her delivery of the defense opening statement. Evelyn LaVelle was given an award for her defense closing statement delivery.  

“Mock Trial is extremely beneficial to students. They learn how a courtroom works. They don’t just learn from a teacher or a textbook, but actual trial attorneys. Students can figure out if this is a profession they may want to go into. I think this is great for someone who has a competitive edge, but not on a physical level. This offers that avenue for students to be successful,” Compton said.