By Charlie Xu

Jason Johnson is dead. Was his death a mistake, a tragic result from an accidental overdose of Adderall and alcohol? Or was Jason Johnson’s death a murder, perpetuated by none other than his best friend and alleged drug dealer, Rae Concha? In spite of all of the drama and suspense surrounding this case, both news reporters and video cameras, strangely enough, were all absent from these proceedings. That’s because this case is completely fake. But, from November 12 to December 16, 2013, that fantasy case was brought to life. In that period of time, students from 38 high school teams across Orange County gathered to argue the case of People vs. Concha during the 2013 Mock Trial competition.

Mock Trial is, as the name implies, a simulation of the actual court proceedings of a criminal trial. Each year, teams receive a case packet, which consists of witness statements and other information pertinent to the trial. Each team, consisting of a prosecution team and a defense team, then spend a month preparing their case, memorizing statements, writing direct examinations, practicing objections, and developing strategies to gain a competitive edge over the other teams. After this month of grueling preparation, the teams are put to the test in a head-to-head round robin competition. In every matchup, one team acts as the prosecution, while the other acts as the defense. As each team argues its case in the courtroom, its performance is scored by actual attorneys and actual judges, who pick the winning team of the trial.

Those teams who are especially talented advance to the playoffs, where they compete, sudden-death style, for the coveted privilege of representing Orange County at the State Mock Trial competition. Of the 38 schools that participated, only 16 earned enough points to make the cutoff for playoffs. As the playoffs progressed, and the trials became more difficult, each team had to push itself and fine-tune its argument in order to survive. As the trials grew harder, the distinction between victory and defeat grew smaller. In fact, in one match-up, all that separated the winning team from the other team was a mere four points. A razor-thin victory, but a victory nonetheless. In the end, Saddleback Christian Academy emerged as the champions, with El Dorado High School in second place, and University High School in third.

Rae Concha’s guilt may be subject to reasonable doubt, but the merit of the Mock Trial competition is not. Not only does this competition acquaint students with the field of law and improve their speaking skills, but it also challenges them to tackle tough problems and encourages them to have fun while doing it. And, at the end of every trial, regardless of the verdict or the final score, every participant breathes a sigh, one of relief and of accomplishment.

For more information on the Mock Trial competition, go to http://crfoc.org/mock_trial0.aspx