By McKenna MIDDLETON,
Schools work to prepare students for future careers, fostering skills in English, math, and science. But what about future lawyers? Mock Trial is a program that seeks to develop students’ skills in the area of law.
Crescenta Valley High School has had a Mock Trial club for the past 18 years. Participants gain knowledge of the United States court system from attorney coaches Patti Choi, Mark Winn and William Monterroso. All of the attorney coaches are public defenders and provide students with a vast amount of knowledge of the legal system. Students are also able to enhance their public speaking and analytical skills through this program.
Students receive a hypothetical case that they study along with court procedures and objections. This year’s case is a criminal trial of a high school student accused of selling drugs. He also is charged with murder in the second degree of a friend. The Mock Trial team is then split into defense and prosecution. Some students act as attorneys, defendants or witnesses. Others portray courtroom bailiffs, clerks or courtroom artists.
“I have learned so much. It has opened so many doors to professions I had never even dreamed of pursuing. However, not everyone on the team wants to be an attorney,” said lead defense attorney and vice president of the Mock Trial club at CV Taylor Middleton.
After the case has been completely analyzed, the team competes in a series of trial competitions held at the Los Angeles Courthouse in the fall. Real-life judges volunteer their time to preside over the high school Mock Trial competitions. Local attorneys serve as scorers, judging the competing teams on everything from their opening and closing statements to how well witnesses know their statements. A defense team will compete against a prosecution team from another school. The team with the highest score moves on. Although a verdict will be rendered by the judge, this has no weight in deciding who wins the competition. The teams compete in final death elimination until Mock Trial finals in which the winner of these two teams moves on to the state competition in March.
Last year, CVHS’s Mock Trial team secured second place in the state of California. This year, the team is even more motivated to come out on top.
“I really hope for competitions this year that we can learn from and look back on, knowing we did our best,” said lead prosecution attorney and Mock Trial club president Cortney Sohn.