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A Day in the Life at the Regional High School Mock Trial Competition

Saturday I had the privilege of serving as a scoring juror for the regional finals of the 2016-2017 North Carolina Advocates for Justice High School Mock Trial Program, sponsored by the Carolina Center for Civic Education. The case being presented was one dealing with many current issues facing high school students: bullying, acceptance of differences in abilities, interests, religion, and ethnicity, school safety and school discipline, and reasonable versus excessive force.

Ten teams began the day, and each team competed for two rounds. Each round was scored, and the two top-scoring teams advanced to the final round. I was asked to be one of the five "scoring jurors" for the final round. The teams tossed a coin to see which team would present which side of the case, and then selected which team members would serve in the various roles. Three team members were to serve as lawyers, and divide the duties of presenting the case among themselves. Three other members of the team served as witnesses according to a previously prepared set of facts, and one other served as timekeeper.

Each team did an opening statement, presented three witnesses for their side of the case with a different attorney handling each witness (with cross-examination by an attorney from the opposing team), and then each side prepared and gave a closing argument. It was our job to score each segment on a scale from one to ten on a score sheet, and to keep a separate comments or critique sheet for each segment at the same time. So each team got a score on their lawyer's performance of the opening statement, a score for the direct examination of each of their witnesses by one of their attorneys, a score for the performance of the witness overall (including both direct and cross-examinations), and a score for the cross-examination by one of their lawyers of each of the other team's witnesses.

The teams were fantastic from the start. The opening statements were well done, with the edge going on my card to Team J, representing the Plaintiff. Team J's three witnesses all did a great job, and the direct examinations by the lawyers were nicely handled. Team G, representing the Defendant, whose lawyers were handling the cross-examination of the witnesses for Team J, likewise turned in three superior performances. Overall, though Team J I felt did slightly better on two of the three.

Next, team G presented their three witnesses, with each of their attorneys handling the direct examination of one of the witnesses and doing it well. Team J's lawyers did a fine job of handling the cross-examinations as well. Again, the scoring was close, but favored Team J. With all of the witnesses' performances also being evaluated, in the end I had two of Team J's witnesses scoring slightly higher but the total scores for the three witnesses were almost dead even.

Finally, the teams each selected an attorney to handle closing argument. Both were outstanding, and their scores reflected it.

When the five of us retired to deliberate and compile the individual scores each of us had assigned as the trial went along, it was clear that, while both teams had done well and scored high marks, Team J had accumulated the higher score. We then selected, along with the Hon. Lori Hamilton, a Superior Court Judge from the 22d Judicial District who presided over the mock trial, the witness and attorney we though did the best at their assigned tasks in that round. There was much discussion because everyone had done a superior job, but eventually we came to a winner in each category. And we went back into the courtroom to deliver the "verdict", provide our critiques of the performances, and announce the award winners.

Both teams were excited, but showed outstanding sportsmanship and courtesy. I must say that I came away impressed by their skill levels, the obvious amounts of hard work and time they invested in the competition, and their overall character and demeanor.

Congratulations to the nine Regional Champions, who will be competing at State Finals in March!

Asheville: TC Roberson High School
Fayetteville: Village Christian Academy
Gastonia: Gaston Christian School
Greenville: J.H. Rose High School
High Point: Uwharrie Charter School
Pittsboro: East Chapel Hill High School
Raleigh: HARC
Salisbury: Central Carolina Home School Group
Wilmington: Wake Classical

Blog by: Mike Adkins
Practice Areas: auto accidents, personal injury, traffic tickets and motor vehicle law, wrongful death

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