Mock trial begins season with high hopes

October 23, 2015 — by Cassandra King and Katherine Zhou

Mock trial kicks off the season with a strong start.

Twenty-five anxious students filed into history teacher Matt Torrens’ room on Oct. 6, eager to compete for a spot on the mock trial team. The students stood in front of attorney-coach Mary McDonald and the team’s captains, seniors Karthik Padmanabhan and Neeki Tahmassebi, most exuding a confidence they did not feel.

A week later, eight were chosen for attorney roles and eight received witness roles.

This year, the team is arguing the hypothetical case “People v. Hayes,” which revolves around a student, Jamie Hayes, who is charged with the second-degree murder of a campus security guard, Lee Valdez. The prosecution will argue that Hayes should be charged with the crime, while the defense will argue that Hayes was defending his friend, Casey Barns, who was allegedly being choked by Valdez.

“I am very excited that it is a murder case, and no longer an art theft case,” said  McDonald said, who is returning for her second year. “I think [the Constitutional Rights Foundation could have created] a little bit more exciting expert [witnesses], but I think it’s a very relevant topic.”

Although the team has lost valuable members such as 2015 alumni Max Chang and Michelle Luo, the returning members are prepared to step up to take their places when the county tournament starts in February.

“I know that we have a really strong team this year and think that with a bit of effort on the part of everybody we can go far,” junior Peter VandeVort said. “I really want to make sure that everybody can enjoy the experience, whether that be prosecution or defense or attorneys or witnesses. Mock trial is a club for all.”

McDonald also has high hopes for the upcoming season.

“There’s a lot of talented people who came back this year and there’s a lot of new people, so I’m excited to see how we do,” McDonald said.

Based on last year’s experience, McDonald wants to focus more on the spontaneity of the witnesses to make them more believable and provide more credibility to the case. To improve further, Tahmassebi said that the team has decided to have practices with agendas, since McDonald is committed to being the coach for her second year with the team.

“The goal for the team is to be able to really understand how the trials work and the different ways to succeed in the prosecution or the defense,” Tahmassebi said. “No matter how far we get in the competition, [the coach and captains] think it is most important to understand what it is all about and grasp an understanding of the law.”

McDonald hopes the team will be able to come together as a united front and enjoy their experiences this year.

“I just want everyone to have fun, and enjoy the law as much as I do, [and] maybe get a little bit of my passion,” said McDonald.


The Attorneys: Prosecution: sophomore Katherine Zhou (pretrial), juniors Jackie Han, Peter VandeVort and Rhea Srivats

Defense: senior Karthik Padmanabhan (pretrial), seniors Neeki Tahmassebi, Nina Harris, Gwynevere Hunger 

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