Guilty … and on all counts.
Mullen’s Mock Trial Team and all of the conviction that comes with it is on a quest to win a state championship.
To date in 2021-22, the Mustangs have:
--- Been going at it regularly since October.
--- Received their case and explored it from every angle.
--- Recently won their regional.
--- Done it with an unusually inexperienced group.
--- And they’re headed to the Colorado Championship March 18-19 at Jefferson County Court in Golden.
Second a year ago, team coach Tammy Christensen, who also teaches AP Government, Forensic Law and Holocaust, said “last year, we expected to win. We had a lot of experience, a lot of students who had done it.
“This year, we only have one returning attorney and three others who were part of the team. I’m super-pleased we made state with a new group of kids.”
Furthermore, she added, “you don’t know how hard this is. It’s not iike putting on a play and you memorize lines … you have to take on the character of a witness and if you want to be an attorney, you have to be as good as the trial lawyers are. You have to know the specific rules of evidence, like, how to respond to speculation. You have to be able to quote the rules of evidence that apply.”
Said junior Lia Dino, who portrays an attorney: “I think, based on 75 percent of the team being brand new and the fact we’re doing as well as we have, it’s unheard of.”
Thirteen Mustangs – seven females, six males – are on the team that is looking forward to competing in person after a couple of years of virtual episodes because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
And don’t be surprised that anything involving lawyers is detailed, takes time and contains lots of arguments – scholastic mock trial follows all of the letters of the law. Participants are responsible for everything from victims to witnesses to plaintiffs to defendents to lawyers to prosecutors to experts. The cases can be civil or criminal. Actual lawyers serve as team mentors and coaches – Mullen’s is Patty Campbell – and spectators are used as jurors.
Perhaps most interesting of all is use of actual judges.
“You can get on a judge’s bad side,” Christensen said.
The case this school year is familiar – commercials on television seem to run one regularly. It’s about a landscaping technician using fertilizer and eventually contracting Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. And it’s explored from all angles, deals with all of the difficulties and plays a tune or two on heart strings.
“It’s a really tough case for all,” said junior Maisie Bogitch, who will be a witness on either side. “People have to know the medical or scientific terminology. It’s a difficult case to get your head around.
“Witnesses have to bring the right element of personality into the material that’s very factual. You have to learn how to respond to very difficult questions.”
Octavia Gomez, who will be asking for emotional damages in the case, called the Mustangs “a really good team dynamically.”
Said Dino of her team’s chances to advance to nationals in May: “I think, based off our performance, we’re in a pretty good spot. But many improvements have to be made.”