It was a case of a campus party gone horribly wrong. What started as a night of loud music and camaraderie among members of the track team, quickly ended in the death of a campus security guard. Was this a case of cold-blooded murder by a star student, or was the student acting to defend a third party who had been ruthlessly attacked? It would take seven schools' Mock Trial teams split among three departments in the Monterey County Courthouse to determine the answer.
This particular Mock Trial competition consisted of students from Pacific Grove, Alvarez, Palma, Santa Catalina, Salinas, Carmel, and Soledad high schools. In order to qualify for the final Mock Trial competition, the students needed to study this mock case in great depth with the guidance of their teams' coaches. Though the pressure to out-argue their peers was strong among rival schools, the bigger purpose of the Mock Trial activity--to have fun while partaking in a rigorous academic event--was very obvious and present among all the students.
For example, in one instance, the defense of one of the schools began heavily questioning the witness at the stand. A passionate member of the prosecution, without a doubt the most vocal among his peers, repeatedly stood up to make objections. Time and time again, each objection was overruled.
Suddenly: "Objection on the basis of an ambiguous question!" the boy protested firmly as he stood up with confidence. There was a moment of silence as the judge wearily turned his attention to the boy, mulling over this objection with caution.
"Sustained," the judge finally replied before adding, "Even I didn't understand the question." A swell of laughter erupted from both parents and students alike, echoing around the department.
Students don't need to be interested in becoming lawyers if they want to participate in Mock Trial. Mock Trial spurs incredible growth and helps students develop practical skills that are applicable to nearly every profession. These skills include, but are not limited to: public speaking and diction, persuasion, critical thinking, analyzing a problem from different angles, understanding both sides of an argument, improvisation and thinking on your feet, teamwork, self-discipline, understanding the U.S. justice system, and courtesy and professionalism. Even students who want to become actors benefit from Mock Trial, since they must take on an identity and remain in character for the duration of the trial without losing their composure.
Be sure to return to our blog next Tuesday to find out who wins the final competition and to see photos from the final event!