Exeter, Woodlake students among 13 high school teams to play prosecution, defense at 2018 Mock Trail competition


VISALIA – Students from Exeter and Woodlake were among 13 Tulare County high school teams to compete in the annual Tulare County Mock Trial Competition last week. The preliminary rounds of the legal competition began on Jan. 23 and will continue through Feb. 1.

Mock trial teams are comprised of 10 to 20 students who take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, court clerks and bailiffs. All teams must make their presentations based on identical hypothetical case materials. Each team, coached by local attorneys and school personnel, presents the case for both the prosecution and defense twice during the course of the competition.

Prosecuting attorney Dane Carstens (Exeter High School) cross examines a witness (Orosi High School). Photo courtesy of Rob Herman, Tulare County Office of Education.

Prosecuting attorney Dane Carstens (Exeter High School) cross examines a witness (Orosi High School). Photo courtesy of Rob Herman, Tulare County Office of Education.

All teams will present their cases before actual judges and attorneys, with three attorneys scoring each trial. The first four rounds and the semi-final round will take place in the Tulare County Superior Court building (third floor). Open to the public, the trial dates are: Jan. 23, 25 and 30, and Feb. 1 (preliminary rounds); and Feb. 8 (semi-final round). Trials begin each night at 5 p.m. The finals will take place at the Tulare County Office of Education Redwood Conference Center (6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia) on Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. Members of the public, parents, students and teachers are welcome to attend any of the trials.

The other teams competing in the mock trial competition represent Dinuba High School, El Diamante High School (Visalia), Granite Hills High School (Porterville), Mission Oak High School (Tulare), Mt. Whitney High School (Visalia), Orosi High School, Redwood High School (Visalia), Tulare Union High School, Tulare Western High School, and University Preparatory High School (Visalia).

For 2018, student participants throughout California will be preparing the fictitious case entitled People v. Davidson, which is the trial of Casey Davidson, a resident of Acorn, California. Davidson faces a felony count of first degree murder for the death of Alex Thompson, another young resident of Acorn and member of Ultra Nats, an extremist nationalist group. The prosecution alleges that Davidson murdered Thompson in the same park where a political rally had taken place. Attendees gathered in the park to either protest or support a national radio political commentator who is critical of liberal immigration policies. The defense argues that Davidson did not murder Thompson and has an alibi for what happened at the time of death. According to the defense, Davidson was an activist in the nonviolent Equality for All (EFA) group and had a history of mediating behavior during conflict. The pretrial issue in People v. Davidson focuses on whether it is a search under the Fourth Amendment for the government to obtain routinely collected GPS location data from a third-party GPS provider. Law enforcement used such GPS information to gather evidence that Davidson had traveled to Thompson’s residence several times in the days before his death.

The Tulare County Office of Education would like to thank the many legal community volunteers who donate their time and expertise to make this competition possible. The Mock Trial Program is sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and co-sponsored by the California Department of Education, the State Bar of California, the Young Lawyers’ Association and the Daily Journal Corporation. The Tulare County Office of Education coordinates the program locally, with assistance from local attorneys and judges.

The champions from the final round of the Tulare County Mock Trial Competition will be eligible to compete in the annual state finals March 16-18 at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. For more information, contact Scott Pierce at the Tulare County Office of Education at 559-651-0562.

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