By Jamie A. Hunt

The mock-trial case at the Tulare County Superior Court allowed students from Exeter Union High School and Lindsay High School to grapple with pertinent social and legal issues in the case designed for the mock trials; People vs. Markson.

The case cites issues pertaining to 4th amendment rights and students must study many legal cases to develop their arguments to compete successfully in the mock-trial competition.

The court room was crowded with noisy and excited students and teachers, nervous parents and coachs. Teachers were giving students last minute instructions on role playing, while parents from Exeter and Lindsay settled unobtrusively on benchs in support of their children.

The mood quickly hushed as the judge came into the courtroom and everyone quickly got ready to begin the trial. &#8220All Rise,” and the competition was on.

The student portrayals of lawyers, witnesses, court clerk and bailiff were excellent. The court scene and atmosphere was an incredible experience. The case became very compelling, and competition between the prosecution and defense was intense throughout the trial.

Jes Markson, a successful TV producer, was accused of murdering his wife, Taylor, after an argument.

Susan Ingoldsby, LHS Defense Lawyer, used the Guns'n'Roses song &#8220Welcome to the Jungle, It's all fun and Games, if you've go the money honey, we've got your disease,” to present the pre-trial argument that Mrs. Markson had committed suicide, and made a motion to remove evidence taken in an illegal search and seizure of property owned by the defendant.

Prosecution lawyer, Sam Sario, EUHS, argued in the pre-trial that Markson killed his wife, and incriminating evidence had been found.

The victim, Taylor Markson, was found dead in her car in the garage. She attended a party the night before for an old boyfriend and left early with a friend, who drove her home.

Det. Green (Tina Davis, EUHS), searched the Markson house, garage, pool house, along with a utility shed on the property. Evidence was found in shed.

The defense argued that the shed was a private area Markson kept locked. Green needed permission to search it. The defense concluded that Markson's Fourth amendment rights were violated due to illegal search and seizure.

Whereas, the prosecution proved that Markson gave Green permission to search the house, garage and entire property, including the shed.

Phipps, singing the Guns ‘n' Roses theme, connected the Hollywood movie industry and the &#8220disease” mentioned in the song, suggesting that the victim committed suicide because she couldn't handle the fame and success of being a star.

Prosecution lawyer, Phillip Clift, EUHS, in his opening stated that the defendent hit his wife during an argument after she returned from the party, put her body in the car and turned it on, closing the garage doors.

The witnesses for the prosecution were then called to the stand.

Prosecution witnesses

The first witness is Dr. Frances Stone (Shanna Hobbs, EUHS), who examined the body and testified the victim had died of carbon monoxide at 2 a.m.

Later in the trial, testimony by defense witness Dr. Choi (Rachel Wyckoff, LHS), determined the victim died at 4 a.m., by tracing the digestion of food by the victim, contesting the 2 a.m. time of death.

Alex Palmer (Peggy Wong, EUHS), Markson property caretaker, was called to the stand. The prosecutiong claimed that Markson asked Palmer about hiring a hit man. She was very surprised, but endeavored to help Markson because he had given her a job and a place to live.

Prosecution questioned Palmer about an argument Jes and Taylor had. Markson had a reputation of being a hot-head and voilatile. Palmer said she heard sounds of an argument that night coming from the house. Palmer saw the TV on in the master bedroom later that night and found Mrs. Markson's body in the garage the next morning. Prosecution questioned whether Palmer immediately told Mr. Markson about the the body.

The defense cross-examined Palmer and questioned what the argument was about. Did Palmer overhear the argument but not see it? Could she hear what was being said? Palmer replied that she only overheard the argument and did not see it.

Defense witnesses

Jes Markson (Justin Murillo, LHS), the defendant, was the last witness interviewed. Prosecution affirmed that TV and film director Markson had casted his future wife, Taylor Rodriguez, in a TV show, &#8220Newport Beach.” A few months after they met, they got married. The prosecution asked Markson about his reputation of being a hot-head and demanding of co-workers in his production company. Markson replied that directors in movie and TV have an industry wide reputation that comes with the way of life.

The hand-written note found in the shed, &#8220Murder by Monoxide,” was that how Markson killed his wife? Markson said that was an old script that he wrote in 2001. Markson, excellently played by Justin Murillo, LHS, gave the perfect impression of a despondent and bewildered husband. &#8220I never killed my wife,” he said.

Closing arguments

Lead prosecuter, played by Eric Allen, EUHS, made the argument that after a jealous argument the night before, Markson killed his wife by hitting her and leaving her unconscious body in the car, which he turned on, and left running with the garage doors closed. The script found by Det. Green clearly described the scene.

Defense attorney Rene Gustason, LHS, made her closing argument that Taylor, could not handle the stress of becoming a star, suffered months of depression and finally, committed suicide.

The Judge ruled in favor of the Lindsay's defense team because the prosecution was not able to prove that Markson murdered his wife beyond a reasonable doubt and ruled that all of the evidence was circumstantial.

The mock trial continues on Jan. 24, 26 at the Tulare County Superior Courthouse.

The winning teams will then face-off at the courthouse on Jan. 31. The final trial will be at El Diamante Theater on Feb. 7.

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