After losses to graduation, mock trial adds underclassmen to team

November 16, 2017 — by Ashley Feng and Katherine Zhou

Underclassmen look forward to upcoming season of mock trial for courtroom experience.

At mock trial practice on Nov. 2, freshman Shahmun Jafri read from his witness statement, settling into the role of expert witness Devon Morrison, a medical examiner for the prosecution.

In this year’s case, People v. Davidson, teams must follow a murder trial revolving around a murder at a political rally, involving two split political parties. Jafri plays the medical examiner who performed an autopsy on the body of murder victim, Alex Thompson, the victim, finding that suspect, Casey Davidson, was likely the killer.

In previous years, only a few underclassmen have received roles, but this year, the team of 18 members includes six underclassmen.

After losing key members from the Class of 2017 such as alumni Peter VandeVort, Jackie Han, Cassi King, Isabelle Tseng and Sarah Chang, mock trial has tried to garner interest for the club and gain new members. The attorney teams last year almost entirely consisted of seniors, so following their exit last June, the team made fliers and advertised to drama classes and freshmen in an effort to promote the club.

However, many new members joined simply because of their existing interests for possible careers in law.

“I was always interested in law,” freshman Kaitlyn Tsai, a pretrial attorney for the defense said. “I thought mock trial would be a good opportunity to try it out and [gain] some experience.”

Jafri said he joined to learn more about the American court system, along with being able to hone in on his skills on “explaining and arguing against other people using evidence.”

Because of the complex rules and competition system, mock trial takes a significant amount of time and is different from many other groups on campus. The team works around the week to study the case and practices for one and a half hours Tuesday nights with the help of attorneys Jing Lee and Michael Hsueh. Tsai said that having real attorneys coaching gives more in-depth exposure to law, calling the experience “really cool.”

As the season is starting, attorney-coach Mary MacDonnell is excited for the addition of new members.

From attorneys to witnesses, just from the limited stuff we’ve seen so far, I think there’s going to be a lot of talent this year, and it’s going to be exciting,” she said. “People are just more prepared and want to be here. I think it’s going to be a great year.”

Although there is a lot of pressure placed onto the new members, they are unfazed and looking forward to the competition season, starting with a Dec. 5 scrimmage against West Valley Middle College’s mock trial team. The Santa Clara County competition season begins Jan. 23.

“I’m looking forward to the competitions, because that’s where we can go against other schools,” Tsai said. “I get to see how good everyone else is and what it’s like to be in a courtroom with real judges.”

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