Walking by Room H-30 at Dos Pueblos High School on Wednesday evenings, you’re bound to hear conversations of obscure chemicals such as 4-butanediol and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid — more commonly known as the “date rape drug.”
But this isn’t a chemistry class. Nor is it a health class discussing the dangers of drugs.
It’s the Dos Pueblos Mock Trial Team preparing for the most significant tournament of their teenage careers.
After advancing all the way to the championship round of last year’s California Mock Trial Championships, the DP Mock Trial Team will be traveling to New York City to compete in the Empire Mock Trial Association’s Empire City Invitational World Championship.
The tournament is considered the most prestigious in the nation, and only teams who finish at the top of their state competitions are invited to apply. Empire brings together the top teams in the nation as well as international teams from such places as Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and South Korea.
The fictional case they will argue (although it’s loosely based on a real one) involves a 2-year-old boy, Joey Davis, who died of respiratory arrest after swallowing toy beads covered in a chemical called 1,4-butanediol. When ingested (and this is a fact), it converts to gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, or GHB, or in layman’s terms, “the date rape drug.”
In the case “Davis vs. Happyland Toy Company,” the family of the child are suing the company for manufacturing and selling a dangerous product. Some members of the DP Mock Trial Team represent the family as they compete against other schools who defend the company. Likewise, other members of the DP team defend the company against the accusations of the family.
Team co-captain Hannah Cruz, who has the burden of cross-examining the grieving parent, is excited not only for the trip to New York but because of the case itself.
“Just the fact that it’s a college mock trial and not a high school mock trial case also means our witnesses can have accents, props and pull all sorts of crazy shenanigans that we’d never be allowed to do in state competitions,” Cruz said. “Overall, this particular case is one of the most intense and exciting cases I’ve had the pleasure of participating in thus far.”
This will be the first civil case the Chargers have ever presented, which was inspired by an actual lawsuit brought against a toy company.
“For starters this case, ‘Davis v. Happyland Toy Co.,’ is based off a real-life scenario where a company manufactured beads which, when swallowed, metabolized into a toxic substance inside some unlucky kids’ stomachs,” Cruz said. “While no children died in the real scenario, our lawsuit deals with the death of a 2-year-old toddler, which gets very heavy in trial when the parent is called to testify.”
The competition will be held at the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Division in downtown Brooklyn from Oct. 25-28.
Dos Pueblos is one of only two California schools selected. The other school is La Reina High School from Thousand Oaks, which narrowly defeated the Chargers in the state finals last spring.
So, while other students were relaxing and some studying through the summer, the Mock Trial Team has been working on their new case, studying and analyzing the case they will confront in New York.
The trip is costing the team $20,000, for which they are fundraising with various methods. One of the methods they using is a website fundraising tool called Go Fund Me.
The team just returned from a mock trial retreat at attorney coach Scott Campbell’s family ranch in Victorville.
“At the retreat we get at least a solid day and a half to work through everything we have,” Cruz said. “And I mean everything. We rewrite openings, edit closings, cut and paste, add question pockets, develop characters, take a break to look at cows, hone exams, eat chocolate, practice presentation, discuss objections, wear tiaras, do synchronized swimming and other very serious mock trial business affairs. It’s a really excellent time to work as well as bond as a team, and we all come away from it as a tighter unit with a tighter case.”
There are 11 students from last year’s varsity team who are heading to New York: Alison Mally, Nimisha Shinday, Delia Bullock, Madeleine Centrella, Bela Lafferty, Madeline Matthys, Camille Wyss, Hannah Cruz, Sophia Zheng, Sean Strong and Ami Thakrar.
Additionally, teacher coach Bill Woodard and attorney coaches Maureen Grattan and Joel Block are attending the trip.