Yosemite wins mock trial competition

Yosemite High School, with a history of dominance in the Honorable Edward P. Moffat Madera County Mock Trial competition, has once again won the title over Liberty, Madera, and Dos Palos High Schools. This was Yosemite High School’s 26th win in 31 years.

“It was a highly competitive event and we are proud of all of our teams,” said Cecilia Massetti, Madera County Superintendent of Schools, of the three day event (Dec. 9 - 11). “Students learn so much about the court system through this experience.”

Yosemite High School will now move on to represent Madera County at the state competition March 20- 22 in Riverside. The 19-member all-female team includes: Jocelyn Boe, Gianna DeFelice, Sabrina Garcia, Elise Keeler, Taylor Levee, Breeaunna, Lewis, Jaecie Madaus, Malory Meiss, Sophie O'Meara, Olivia Pearson, Laura Pearson, Alessia Quilla-Thayer, Erika Robichaux, Ellen Saunders, Katelyn Suderman, Sarah Swan, Jessica Tanoury. The team is coached by IB sociology, psychology, and AP government teacher Deborah Brown, and attorney Bernard McGoldrick of the Oakhurst law firm McGoldrick & McGoldrick.

The Mock Trial is a simulation of a criminal court case in which the students act as attorneys, witnesses, bailiffs and clerks. Attorneys from throughout the valley score the students’ performance. This year’s fictional case is People v. Shem, in which Evan Shem (played by Suderman) is studying for her masters of fine arts degree and faces one felony count of theft by grand larceny for a treasured painting called “Treason.” The pretrial issue centers on the Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure. In the defense attorney’s (Boe) closing line of her opening statement, she proclaims, “a betrayal so foul it could very well be called treason.”

Madera County will also send a courtroom artist and courtroom journalist to the state competition. Libby Haggard from Yosemite High School won the courtroom artist competition. She sketched a courtroom scene during Tuesday’s trial. Breeze Leal from Yosemite High School will represent Madera County as the winning courtroom journalist. Leal wrote a story based on Tuesday’s trial.

“They are fierce competitors, and extremely hard-workers,” said Brown, who has 11 wins in her 13 years of coaching. “In the 13 years of coaching the Mock Trial team, I have never had a team so talented. In addition to the returning members, 11 teammates were new to the team.”

“This is my first year at Yosemite High School, and the first opportunity I have had to participate in Mock Trial,” Quilla-Thayer said. “It is so exciting to be able to a part of this wonderful team and to have the opportunity to compete in the upcoming state competition.”

The following Yosemite team members won awards:

Other outstanding honors went to pre-trial attorney Olivia Pearson, outstanding artist Libby Haggard, and outstanding journalists Breeze Leal and Jewel Crosson.

Honorable mentions went to Sophie O’Meara for defense attorney, and Laura Pearson as prosecution witness.

“It feels really good to have accomplished this huge success my senior year with the group of remarkable individuals. YHS Mock Trial is a family,” Taylor Levee said.

The YHS team has been practicing almost nightly for the last few months to hone their skills. Witnesses have been memorizing their respective parts, attorneys studying the appropriate objections, and lastly, attorneys learning to argue their constitutional points during the pre-trial arguments.

“It has been a long process to get to the point of winning,” Sabrina Garcia said. “It was an amazing feeling to bring our plaque back home to Yosemite High.”

O’Meara summed up the win with “we’re about to turn Riverside into Badger Country.”

“We are excited to have students from Yosemite High School represent Madera County at the state competition,” said Massetti. “We wish them luck during the next round of competition.”

Each team was coached by attorneys as well as teachers in preparation for the trial. The Madera team was coached by attorney Noah Marshall and teacher John Martin; Liberty High was coached by attorney Michelle Sassano and teachers Kevin Peterson and Rick Tarango.

Judge Dale Blea, Judge Ernest LiCalsi, Judge Michael Jurkovich, Commissioner Staggs and Judge Charles Wieland presided over the trials. The Mock Trial was held on three separate days and teams participated in six rounds of competition.

Dos Palos High School competed as a visiting team from Merced County. Healthy air calendar features Coarsegold artists

The Mock Trial and other student academic events are supported by Madera County Office of Education and Madera County Schools Foundation through community and business donations and volunteers. Madera County Superior Court co-sponsored the Mock Trial. California Rights Foundation provided the trial cases.

- Madera County Office of Education and YHS correspondent