Team’s skills put on trial

Christina Liu , Staff Writer

“Your honor, this is an exception to hearsay, and it is an admission by the party opponent.” Courtroom procedures may seem foreign to many high school students, but Diamond Bar High School’s Mock Trial team has made it their job to understand and argue the law in an actual courtroom.

The team consists of 20 students, led by head coach Latitia Thomas and assistant coach Margaret Ku. The team consists of eight attorneys, eight witnesses, one clerk, one bailiff and two alternates.

“We have a really great team environment, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this level of camaraderie in any of my other clubs or organizations,” senior Cecily Deng said.

Mock Trial is an academic organization that imitates proceedings in an actual legal court system, and teams across California spend two months rehearsing and editing the given case trial. Each year, teams are given a standard case trial, which they study in detail. The members then go to the Los Angeles County Courthouse to compete, with professional judges and attorneys scoring each round.

“I was able to step out of my comfort zone and spend loads of time practicing subjects that interest me like law and public speaking,” senior Jeremy Barajas said via Facebook.

During a mock court hearing, both teams give their opening statement, direct examination, cross examination and closing statement with the judge conducting the trial. During the court case, attorneys score the teams, and the results are released a day later. In their most recent competition, the team made it to playoffs, ranking 24 out of the 100 teams competing.

“We did get far but we could have gone a lot further,” senior Pablo Martinez said via Facebook. “Our third round, we went against an extremely powerful team but we put up a very good show, and in the end, we lost by a slim margin of 1 to 2 percent of the total points.”

Tryouts for the team are held at the beginning of the year for students to make it on the team. When conducting tryouts, Thomas said that she looks for courage, speaking ability and students’ ability to think quickly.

“Courage is easy to see,” Thomas said. “Can they make eye contact, can they look at me when I ask them questions, can they answer or do they instantly shut down?”

After tryouts, the prosecution and defense side is formed. From there, the team holds daily practices for the two months leading up to their trial, memorizing their lines, constantly editing and focusing on finding the most important parts of the case to argue in the courtroom.

During practice, the team analyzes the case booklet, makes questions and performs official run throughs. Through practices and competitions, members not only gain legal skills, but also deep connections with each other.

“It had given me new found confidence and a disciplined work ethic,” Barajas said. “The Mock Trial team has also become a second family to me.”

Although Mock Trial season has ended, students from the team continue to meet up for the Moot Court competition that takes place in the spring.

Moot Court is held in Duke University in Carolina, where teams argue constitutional law in front of a panel of judges.

“I’ve definitely had my doubts about Mock Trial, which was partially due to how my peers and teachers saw me—a typical STEM student,” senior Irene Chang said via Facebook. “But I didn’t let that stop me; there’s something about public speaking and debate that I love, and I hope to use the skills I’ve learned in Mock Trial to further me in my journey.”