The school’s Mock Trial team ended a successful season on Tuesday, February 17, when the prosecution team forfeited their quarterfinals round of the county competition due to scheduling conflicts over February break. The team qualified for quarterfinals after winning three trials in the previous two weeks, two by the prosecution team and one by the defense team.
“This year, [our team] advanced to the quarterfinal rounds, which we haven’t done in five years or more years,¨ prosecution team member junior Sam Morimoto said. “We compete against the likes of Mitty and Saint Francis, which makes our region of Mock Trial especially competitive.”
The county competitions began on Tuesday, February 2, when the school’s defense team went against Sobrato High School. The Los Altos High School (LAHS) defense team lost, but the prosecution team was able to win versus Leland High School the following Thursday on February 5. The defense team picked up on Tuesday, February 10 with a win against Willow Glen High School, and the prosecution won once again on Wednesday, February 11 against Monta Vista; at this tournament, the LAHS prosecution was tied with Monta Vista’s defense for the total teams’ scores. Given the tie, the judge of the trial decided to award LAHS’ prosecution with the win.
To obtain a team’s total score, three real-life attorneys rank each member of the team from one to five based on overall performance and the quality of his or her objections. The team with the higher cumulative points wins the trial. However, when two teams tie, the trial’s judge, who works as an official courthouse judge, decides the winning team.
“Inevitably, we were nervous,” Sam said. “Usually what happens is you’re really relaxed whenever we compete against our own team in scrimmages…Once you’re facing another school you kind of get the nerves.”
Mock Trial is a competitive event during which high school students compete nationally in realistic trial simulations. There are four roles that are filled by each team (prosecution and defense): Pretrial Attorney, Trial Attorney, Witness and Clerk/Bailiff. Students interested in joining Mock Trial can sign up at club day or come to any of the early meetings. The school team competes in the Mock Trial program founded by the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF).
The CRF encompasses the state of California and currently involves 36 California counties. It provides materials for the Mock Trial teams, such as hypothetical criminal cases, lesson plans on the central issues and competition rules and guidelines. These materials are usually released in early fall, then the season of Mock Trial competitions begins. Mock Trial season typically lasts from August to February, with State Finals taking place in March.
“Mock Trial is really difficult sometimes because you have to think on the fly,” Sam said. “Once the other team makes an objection then you have to respond, and also there’s the whole public speaking aspect; if you’re doing opening or closing arguments for Mock Trial, you’re standing up in front of the judge, all the courtroom…everyone’s watching you, 30 odd people, squaring attorneys, and you have to deliver a five to seven minute speech detailing everything.”