Mock Trial competes at county level

Mock Trial competes at county level

Yaamini Venkataraman

Loss to Prospect defense keeps MVMT out of quarterfinals


Feb. 1, 3, 8, and 10, Mock Trial will be participating in the Santa Clara County High School Mock Trial competition. The competition will pit the MVHS team against teams from the rest of the county, all striving for a 4-0 record or 3-1 record, which would place the team in the advanced rounds of the competition. El Estoque chronicles the journey of MVHS Mock Trial as they make their way through the four preliminary rounds.

County Competitions: Preliminary Round 4

In Mock Trial, two things are certain—experience is the biggest weapon and new teams rarely make quarterfinals.

Unfortunately, these generalizations held true during Mock Trial’s final county competition preliminary round on Feb. 10. The MVHS defense lost by 14 points, 169-155, to the Prospect High School prosecution. The round only had two scorers, just like the previous round, since one of the scorers got stuck in an elevator.

Pre-trial lawyers senior Daniel Ki and sophomore Sean Lee talk after the trial Feb. 10. The Mock Trial defense team was defeated by the Prospect High School prosecution 169-155. Photo by Lisa Zhang.The loss puts them at a record of 1-3, keeping them from advancing to the quarterfinals. Instead, the team plans to shift gears and focus more on recruiting and preparing a new team for the next season.

Last November, the team only consisted of eight people. Through January, new additions were being made to the team and people were being switched around. Unlike MVHS, PHS Mock Trial team members were all experienced—absolutely no new people. That experience helped them command the courtroom during trials.

“It really is an experience thing,” Mock Trial assistant coach Sergei Shubin said. “It’s almost magic in a way. There’s something that experienced teams get [that new teams] don’t get no matter the amount of teaching. Our kids have a better grasp of the materials, but the application comes with experience.”

And experience is something that the team will be building. Pre-trial motions lawyer for the defense team sophomore Sean Lee only joined the team in January even though most pre-trial lawyers start preparation in November.

“Based on my performance [Feb. 10], I would definitely like to improve the rebuttal section of the pre-trial,” Lee said. “I feel like I have everything in my mind but I don’t know how to express it. With a lot more practice, I’ll develop a better speaking style.”

All the witnesses got straight fours for this round, which is considered average. Trial manager sophomore Ankita Tejwani, who played vice-principal Sydney Campbell, believes that more experience would benefit witnesses as well.

“[PHS witnesses] had so much practice that they forgot their own personalities and became different people,” Tejwani said. “They weren’t just good Mock Trialers, they were good actors.”

After a long break, the team will return for Spring training. During this time period, the team will work through a much older case not just to memorize and perform, but to build technique, such as the ability to respond to developments during cross-examinations and speaking style.

From an inexperienced 0-4 team last year to a much stronger, more confident 1-3 team now, the team has nowhere to go but up.


County Competitions: Preliminary Round 3

After an “excellent” trial, a win is imminent. The judge ruled both the pre-trial motion and the verdict in your favor. But the judge’s opinion doesn’t matter—the two subjective scorers have decided that the other team was better.

On Feb. 8, the Mock Trial prosecution team lost 161-153 to the Prospect High School defense team. Although the team won the verdict from the judge, the two scorers gave the round to PHS.

Junior Nandini Chitale converses with Mock Trial head coach Jim Torre after the competition. Although the team’s performance was strong, they lost by eight points to Prospect High School. Photo by Lisa Zhang.The scoring is extremely subjective. All competitors start out with a score of three, which is considered satisfactory. From there, scorers can decide to give the competitor more or less points based on their performance. Usually, three lawyers score Mock Trial competitions; however, there were only two scorers for this round.

Both teams ended up receiving the same score of 81 points from one scorer, but another scorer gave the round to PHS, 80-72.

Despite the loss, the team performance was strong. Pre-trial lawyer senior Daniel Ki won the pre-trial motion, which kept both the assault with a deadly weapon and cyberbullying count in play. He scored straight fives from the scorers. “Super sophomores” Christie Lin and Leo Zhang temporarily replaced sophomore Fangfei Li as prosecution lawyers. Sophomore Sean Lee, who played Chris Draper, the computer lab teacher at Dunbar Middle, received the score 4-5 for his performance. He was put into this position on Feb. 5, the Saturday before the competition.

Sophomore Lucia Dalle Ore was also assigned to her witness position, victim Angel Sterling, on Feb. 5. While on the stand, she started to cry.

“I had to cry,” Dalle Ore said. “The way you can tell you’re truly in character is if you could think about the situation and then react. [Sterling] was abused—she had a brick thrown at the back of her head. Of course I was going to cry.”

Now a 1-2 team, the MVHS defense team will face the PHS prosecution Feb. 10. If they win, they will still have the chance of advancing to the quarter-final rounds of the competition.

Mock Trial’s next competition is Feb. 10, Round 4 of the preliminary competition, against Prospect High School. The competition is open to the public, and will take place at the county’s Superior Court, 191 North First Street in San Jose. Check back on Feb. 11 for the results of the round.


County Competitions: Preliminary Round 2

When your team’s record is 0-1 going into the second round of the competition, don’t worry. The super sophomores will save you.

Sophomore Christie Lin and Mock Trial head coach Jim Torre stand outside the county’s Superior Courthouse. Lin, who received all fives for her closing argument, helped lead the MVHS team to victory. Photo by Lisa Zhang.And that’s what happened to the Mock Trial’s defense team as they went against Santa Clara High School on Feb. 3. Power duo sophomores Leo Zhang and Mock Trial treasurer Christie Lin, the defense lawyers, and pre-trial lawyer sophomore Sean Lee lead the team to a 12-point victory.

“Because we lost the first round, we essentially had to win the second round,” Lin said. “If we lost the second round, it was all over.”

As with the prosecution’s competition on Feb. 1, the defense team lost their pre-trial motion. Ideally, the cyberbullying count would have been thrown out, making it easier for the team to defend Jesse Woodson, the defendant, played by senior Daniel Ki. Instead, the cyberbullying count kept, leaving the team to defend Woodson against both the assault with a deadly weapon and cyberbullying counts.

Lee scored a 5-3-5 for his pre-trial motion. During the trial, Ki scored a 3-5-5 for his performance as Woodson, sophomore Ankita Tejwani, playing vice principal Sydney Campbell, received a 5-5-4. Lin maxed-out, scoring all fives her her closing arguments. After the trial, the District Attorney, one of the scorers, addressed teams and coaches.

“He got up and said, ‘Christie, I think you ought to just graduate from high school, bypass college, go straight to law school, and then come and work for me,’” Mock Trial head coach Jim Torre said. “[Lin] was graceful, confident, at ease, and powerful.”

“My first reaction was relief when the District Attorney told me I did a good job,” Lin said, “because that indicated a very possible win for us.”

The prosecution team will face the Prospect High School defense on Feb. 8. Torre, who started the PHS Mock Trial team in 1998 and was the coach there for 15 years, knows they are “hungry” for a win. Last year, the team was undefeated in the preliminary rounds, but was defeated in the semi-finals. But he knows MVMT is hungry as well.

“The first round our team was a little nervous, and it took a win like this to get their confidence,” Torre said. “They feel armed and dangerous.”

Mock Trial’s next competition is Feb. 8, Round 3 of the preliminary competition, against Prospect High School. The competition is open to the public, and will take place at the county’s Superior Court, 191 North First Street in San Jose. Check back on Feb. 9 for the results of the round.


County Competitions: Preliminary Round 1

It’s safe to say that Mock Trial will be looking for redemption.

Mock Trial president junior Nandini Chitale and vice-president sophomore Reeti Banthia talk to assistant coach Sergei Shubin outside of the courthouse on Feb. 1. The team lost by nine points to St. Francis High School in the first round of the county championship. Photo courtesy of Emily Szeto.On Feb. 1, Mock Trial entered the first round of the Santa Clara County High School Mock Trial competition, losing by nine speaker points (241-232) to St. Francis High School. SFHS, winner of the county championship in 2009 and quarter-finalist in the the county in 2010, was favored by all three judges.

As with any Mock Trial case, it began with the pre-trial motion. For this year’s case, the pre-trial motion lawyer for the prosecution, senior Daniel Ki, tried to persuade the judge that the defendant, Jesse Woodson, could be tried for both assault with a deadly weapon and cyberbullying. The SFHS defense argued that the cyberbullying count was unconstitutional. The team brought in elements from the case itself to argue against the cyberbullying count, although the Mock Trial rules do not allow it; however, the judge condoned it. Ki eventually lost the pre-trial motion, meaning that Woodson could not be charged for cyberbullying. Luckily, the prosecution based the majority of their case on the other count.

“We had an excellent pre-trial, even though we lost [the verdict for the pre-trial],” Mock Trial head coach Jim Torre said. “ Ki received the scores 4-4-5 for his performance as pre-trial motions lawyer, even though he had only been practicing since Jan. 10.

The rest of the case proceeded normally. Witness sophomore Reeti Banthia, acting as Detective Frankie Cooper, received the highest score, a five, for her testimony. Sophomore Fangfei Li also received a five for her direct examination of junior Nandini Chitale, who played forensics officer Sam Holloway.

As with most Mock Trial competitions, the scores were extremely close. SFHS won one more point in their cross-examinations, while MVHS scored a point higher in their direct examinations. SFHS also scored better in witnessing, earning 52 points, as opposed to MVHS’ 47. All three scorers gave SFHS one more point for the closing arguments.

“We need to improve everything,” Torre said. “We’re fairly strong in all phases, but you can’t be weak in anything either.”

Now with their score being 0-1, the team needs to win their three remaining competitions in order to be assured a position in the Advanced Rounds.

“With a win, our confidence should jump,” Torre said. “We’ll become a 1-1 team, and everyone will feel so much better—we’ll be in the middle of the pack.”

Mock Trial’s next competition is Feb. 3, Round 2 of the preliminary competition, against Santa Clara High School. The competition is open to the public, and will take place at the county’s Superior Court, 191 North First Street in San Jose. Check back on Feb. 5 for the results of the round.

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