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Dos Pueblos High Mock Trial Team Ready to Make Its Case at State Championship

Students representing Santa Barbara County will be tackling a first-degree murder trial while vying against teams from 34 other California counties

 

Anything is possible at a mock trial competition.

More than 20 students of the Dos Pueblos High School mock trial team will travel to Santa Ana this week to compete in a three-day competition against other high schoolers at the 37th Annual California Mock Trial Finals held in Orange County Superior Court.

Dos Pueblos, which won the Santa Barbara County title earlier this month, will be one of 34 schools representing their counties at the state championship.

The team began preparations in September, and to get ready for the March 16-18 competition, the group practiced Sunday in Department Four of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court at the historic county Courthouse in downtown Santa Barbara.

“We have come a long way from the beginning of the year at our first tournament ... we have grown,” said Hoku Kern, 17, a DPHS mock trial team member who has been involved for all four years of high school.

“We have a good team and a good chance.”

Each year, mock trial teams argue a fictional case in which the students take turns portraying both the prosecution and defense sides, the court clerk, as well as those who participate as witnesses. The experience provides them an opportunity to hone their acting skills.

In a mock trial, the students are given a full case, complete with evidence.

“It’s experience that not a lot of people get until they go to law school,” Kern said. “It’s a lot of fun. It has given me more insight into what happens and how real trial proceedings work.”

This year’s fictitious case is People v. Davidson, a first-degree murder case. The trial involves Casey Davidson, who is accused of killing Alex Thompson, a member of an extremist nationalist group.

“It’s a contemporary case,” said Glenn Miller, a DPHS mock trial coach. “Other than the judge and the people scoring (which are typically attorneys or law students), the students take all the roles.”

The inner workings of the criminal justice system, the Constitution, the U.S. legal system, and boosting communication and problem-solving skills are some takeaways from the educational experience.

“There needs to be the ability to think on your feet and understand the big picture of the case,” Miller explained. “There are positive skills students get from competing in a mock trial.”

He said he couldn’t be more proud of the group.

“Kids who compete in mock trial are high-achieving and bright,” Miller said.

Volunteer mentors and local attorneys serve as the team’s coaches.

Attorney coach Tyrone Maho, a partner at Maho | Prentice LLP, was the judge at Sunday’s practice.

“Your personality as lawyers and success as lawyers will be shown by you taking over the courtroom and making it your own,” he told the students.

For Maho’s daughter, Paige, mock trial is more than just an extracurricular organization. The 18-year-old senior has been involved all four years of high school.

“I’ve always had an interest in law,” she said. “From being involved in this program, I’ve worked with amazing people, been part of this team and it’s taught me a lot about my future. I want to bring justice to our community and our city. It has taught me a lot about how to do that.”

The award ceremony will take place Sunday at the end of the competition. Plaques and medals will be given to the top eight teams, and the first place group receives the James A. Cobey Trophy.

“As a team, we are so cohesive,” Paige Maho said. “We have worked hard, and feel fortunate to go against such great teams and represent our county.”

Dos Pueblos High has won three California state championships and has four second-place finishes.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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