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The Jury is in: SMHS Mock Trial Team Goes Far

The Titan Mock Trial Team experienced unprecedented success this year, ranking among top in L.A. County

Mock+Trial+Team+members+are+%28from+L+to+R%29%3A+Alex+Sun%2C+Brandon+Li+%2C+Michael+Yu%2C+Nathan+Cao%2C+Ashley+Sun%2C+Lisa+Liu%2C+Tiffany+Chu%2C+Michael+Ossen%2C+Derek+Deng.++%0A
Mock Trial Team members are (from L to R): Alex Sun, Brandon Li , Michael Yu, Nathan Cao, Ashley Sun, Lisa Liu, Tiffany Chu, Michael Ossen, Derek Deng.

Mock Trial Team members are (from L to R): Alex Sun, Brandon Li , Michael Yu, Nathan Cao, Ashley Sun, Lisa Liu, Tiffany Chu, Michael Ossen, Derek Deng.

Mock Trial Team members are (from L to R): Alex Sun, Brandon Li , Michael Yu, Nathan Cao, Ashley Sun, Lisa Liu, Tiffany Chu, Michael Ossen, Derek Deng.

Shinji Lin

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The air in the courtroom was tense, the attorneys were planning, and a mock trial competition was underway.  This year, the San Marino High School Mock Trial Team was one of the last three in the Los Angeles County playoffs.  

When the final gavel came down, the Titans had placed third in the competition.

The team traveled to the Los Angeles County Superior Court in Downtown Los Angeles on November 20.  There, they won the quarterfinals of the playoffs and moved on to the semifinals, which took place on November 30.

This year’s mock trial case was taken right out of news headlines. In People v. Davidson, Davidson is accused of murdering Thompson at a rally where nationalist and pro-immigration proponents had a brawl.

Each team in the competition was randomly assigned to take the side of the prosecution or defense of the criminal case.  Thus, the team, consisting of attorneys and witnesses, took weeks to prepare for the first two preliminary trials.  In the courthouse, the verdicts were ruled by real civil lawsuit judges in civil courtrooms.

Real trial judges preside over the cases in the Mock Trial competition.

The team was assigned prosecution for the first trial and defense for the second and won both cases.  Afterwards, they qualified for Round 1 of the playoffs with a total of 24 schools, where they were assigned to take the defense and won again.  In Round 2 with 12 schools, the SMHS team won again as the prosecution to participate in the quarterfinals with six schools.  In the quarterfinals, the team won to reach the semifinals with the last three teams, further than what last year’s team achieved, who stopped at quarterfinals.  While the first place team goes directly to finals, SMHS must go to court with the other team to win this spot.

The team had much to do in preparation to win so many of these rounds in the mock trial competition.  All members of the team had to memorize all of their written lines and had to be prepared for objections and judge interruptions.

Junior Ashley Sun, who is in her second year on the team, is the pre-trial defense attorney who determines whether evidence can be used with regards to the Fourth Amendment of searches and seizures in this case.

“I make sure I memorize the evidence and then I write it down again and again until it’s completely memorized,” she said.  “From there, I try to add emotion to it so I’m not expressionless.”  

“I add hand gestures that are appropriate and I try to have fun with it too,” senior Tiffany Chu, said, the lead attorney, and a mock trial participant since middle school.

Junior Michael R. Yu, on his mock trial experience, said “It was a lot harder than I expected it to be. A lot of preparation.”  This is the first year that Yu has been on the team and is the pre-trial prosecution attorney, who gives the opening statement, and the trial defense attorney.

Due to the excellent performance of the team, special awards were given to some its members.  Chu was given a county award for her closing statement.  Sophomore Lisu Lu was also given a county award for her cross-examinations.  

Sophomore Ava Slocum, the courtroom journalist, won first place for the Los Angeles County Mock Trial Courtroom Journalist Award.  In March 2018, Slocum will compete in the California Courtroom Journalist Competition at Sacramento.

“Overall, we did pretty well and I was actually surprised that we won a couple of rounds, but I’m glad that we did, Sun said. “Overall, it’s been fun getting to know the underclassmen and I hope they come back for next year.”

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