Representing Madera County, the Yosemite High School 12-member Mock Trial Team competed at the state finals competition in Orange County on March 16 and 17.
County champions from 34 counties from throughout California took part in the competition at the Orange County courthouse in Santa Ana with the Mock Trial participants taking over the whole building for a weekend.
After two days of intense court room drama, Mt. Tamalpais High School from Marin County was named the 2018 Mock Trial State Champions.
This year’s trial was a fictional murder trial of a pro-immigration activist who was accused of murdering an anti-immigration activist at an anti-immigration rally. All of the evidence at trial, including DNA and fingerprint evidence and social media postings, was circumstantial - there were no eye-witnesses to the crime.
Yosemite High School drew the eventual state champions for its first trial, with YHS’s defense team going against Marin County’s prosecution.
Though losing the trial, Yosemite held its own and did not drop far down in the standings, as their next trial pitted Yosemite’s prosecution team against San Diego County’s defense team. Yosemite competed well, which led to a third trial against Santa Cruz County. The two teams were evenly matched which made for a very competitive and entertaining trial.
Yosemite’s fourth and final trial was against Sonoma County. It is a credit to the YHS team and an indication of its competitiveness that all four of its trials were against larger and traditionally stronger counties, as teams are re-seeded after each trial. YHS was consistently seeded high enough throughout the competition to draw top opponents in each round.
“Our students work very hard and are fierce competitors,” coach McGoldrick said. “They are impressive to watch.”
Yosemite High’s team is coached by YHS teacher Andrew Curtain, former YHS teacher and volunteer coach Deborah Brown, and Oakhurst attorney Bernie McGoldrick.
This year’s team has only one senior, Natalie Guynn, who played witnesses on both the prosecution and defense. This was Guynn’s third year in Mock Trial and she became a force on the witness stand, earning high marks during the state competition.
The rest of the team will return next year, including attorneys Mia Adelizi, Jasmine Tanoury, Abigail Williams, Jerome Garcellano, Maddie Washburn, and Sophia McGoldrick. Returning witnesses from this year’s team will be Maya Magdaleno, Skylar Bates, Noah Jennings, Macy Bazzar, and Sophia McGoldrick. Clerk/timer Isabella Peter and Bailiff Linnea Leinau will also return next year.
“Mock Trial is a lot of fun,” said team member Sophia McGoldrick. “We work hard, but we learn so much and have a great time, so it’s well worth the effort.”
“This is one of the better YHS Mock Trial teams we have ever had,” said attorney coach Bernie McGoldrick. “If all the sophomores and juniors return next year, I have no doubt it will be the best Mock Trial team in YHS history, which is saying something.”
Coach McGoldrick explained that even though there was only one senior on this year’s team, there are several spots open for next year’s team because many students had to double-up and play multiple roles on this year’s team.
“I hope other students will come out next year and join this team and see what it is like to be a real lawyer or real witness in a real courtroom in front of a real Judge,” McGoldrick said. “Mock Trial provides excellent experience in public speaking, critical thinking and learning to think on one’s feet. Students find it one of the most worthwhile activities of their high school careers, even when they do not intend to pursue a career in the law.
Tryouts for next year’s team will take place in early to mid-September of 2018.
Sponsors of the trip to Orange County were Bass Lake Lions Club, Sierra Lions Club, Oakhurst Sierra Rotary, Oakhurst Sierra Sunrise Rotary, EMADCO, Jamison & Chappel Attorneys at Law, McGoldrick & McGoldrick Attorneys at Law, Don and Carol Weaver, and The Decarli Family. The trip would not have been possible without these sponsors who together paid half the expenses for the trip with Yosemite High paying half.