By Mo Moore

While a trip to the Tulare County Courthouse might normally cost students for a parking or traffic ticket, it was quite rewarding for students involved in the 2007 Tulare County Mock Trial Competition.

Last Thursday marked round 4 for the competition, with teams fighting to advance to the semi-finals. Exeter's defense went up against Golden West's prosecution in a heated battle starting with a pre-trial argument regarding the First Amendment's right to freedom of speech and expression.

Exeter's Peggy Wong and Golden West's Nick Barker debated the constitutionality of a California legislature stature that declares it illegal for any person under the age of 18 to have in their possession a video game depicting violence on or close to school grounds.

The trial of the People vs. Campbell then commenced. The defendant, Casey Campbell was charged with placing an explosive device in a trash can on a school grounds in an attempt to kill, putting an offensive substance in a pubic place and being in possession of a video game that is in strict violation of the School Violence in Video Games statue.

Students had to not only learn about the case, but had to become fully knowledgeable about the personal role they played. They studied witness statements, exhibits of evidence, the forms and substances of a trial, their roles in a court room and how to commence in a trial.

Students also had to familiarize themselves with California Penal Codes, Jury Instructions and 14 similar cases. Teams got help from local attorneys and during competition were judged by three attorneys on their analysis, performance and debate.

Exeter's Melissa Haun, who played Casey Campbell knew her character all too well. With a peace sign drawn on her hand and a true artist nature, she was the perfect &#8220victim” for Exeter's defense to work with. Reigning over the court room, real judge Gary Patton could not help but smile as he knew the students, not only learned about the legal system, but had fun doing it. Golden West's Kevin Yanian played bully to Casey Campbell, Sawyer Simpson with full high school slacker gusto causing laughter throughout his testimony.

Both sides provided evidence, questioned and cross examined witnesses and used court room terms as if they had gone to law school instead of high school. In the end Judge Patton found Casey Campbell not guilty on the first two counts but guilty for being in possession of a video game that is in strict violation of the School Violence in Video Games statue.

Coaches Jim Stanaway of Exeter and Walta Gamoian of Golden West could not have been more proud of their student teams. Preparing for months amidst being involved in other school activities these students presented themselves in a court room better than most on Law and Order.

Throughout the month of February, 12 Tulare County high school teams competed. Schools that participated in the 2007 Mock Trial Competition were the following: Golden West, El Diamante, Exeter, Golden West, Granite Hills, Lindsay, Mt. Whitney, Redwood, Tulare Western, Tulare Union, Orosi and Woodlake.

Redwood, Tulare Union, Woodlake and Tulare Western will advance to the semi-finals starting Feb. 20 where they will compete for the opportunity to compete in the final competition at 5:15 p.m. Feb. 22 at El Diamante High School.

An awards banquet wraps up the season on March 8 highlighting outstanding students, parents, teachers and attorneys. The Tulare County champions will compete in the state finals March 23-25 in Oakland.

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