Order in Court! Mock Trial competition is in session


Melissa O'Gara

Clark’s Mock Trial team’s yellow defense team and green prosecution team competed in the Constitutional Rights Foundation Mock Trial Competition on Nov. 4.

Over 90 high schools in the Los Angeles county are competing in the annual Constitutional Rights Foundation’s (CRF) Mock Trial competition, and Clark Magnet is one of them. The school’s team competed Nov. 4 at the Los Angeles County Courthouse and both sides (green and yellow) won.

After having only about two months to prepare and to attend a handful of meetings at Mock Trial teacher Melissa O’Gara’s house, the team was ready to face a new team in the competition. 

They also got the opportunity to have a scrimmage against Crescenta Valley High School’s team. This allowed both sides to feel more ready by getting a feel of what they might encounter on the day of the competition.

Melissa O’Gara
The green team’s prosecution witnesses made the defendant, Bailey Matsumoto, seem guilty.

This year’s case is a murder mystery — Bailey Matsumoto either purposefully killed her spouse, Taylor, by hitting them with a golf club or they died as a result of slipping and drowning. Each year, the CRF Mock Trial program produces a case involving a hypothetical crime based on true events or issues that American youth faces. The case packet is made up of a fact situation, witness statements, exhibits and simplified rules of evidence. The mock trial program was created in order for students to gain knowledge on the judicial system and to expand their communication skills. 

Although the other school’s defense team attempted to make Matsumoto seem innocent, Clark’s green prosecution team prevented that from happening. Senior Aren Babachanian, vice president of Clark’s Mock Trial class, set out the theme by starting loud and brief brief when presenting his opening statement: “Taylor spoke out and she silenced them.”

The prosecution team (both the witnesses and attorneys) faced hardships, such as objections. However, all the attorneys knew how to properly challenge the objection and explain to the judge as to why the objection isn’t reasonable. There were also a lot of cases where the attorneys had to make objections to the opposing team.

During cross-examination, a defense lawyer was questioning junior Ani Sahakyan, but was asking questions that Sahakyan’s character would have never known. Babachanian saved her by objecting “unfair extrapolation,” meaning the question cannot be answered since the answer isn’t found in the case packet. 

Similar to Babachanian’s opening statement, senior David Abovian presented his closing statement with a statement that followed the overall theme the prosecution team wanted to depict. “She silenced Taylor Matsumoto,” Abovian said. 

Carol Rodriguez
Sophomores Shirley Putti and Audrey Byrd practiced their lines before the competition to ensure a strong and well-executed performance.

After announcing the verdict, the judge praised the teams’ performances. Not only was she was impressed by the professionalism of the lawyers, she said, but she believed that they outperform many of the real life lawyers who she sees in court. The scorers also mentioned how drawn they were by the witnesses, believing that they did exceptionally well. They were able to answer along with handle all questions and were believable, which is a vital part of being a witness — being able to act and portray emotion.

“I thought that the team was super strong this year, stronger than we’ve been in the first round in the previous year,” said Mock Trial teacher Melissa O’Gara. “There’s still some work left to do, but the students really learned the process left, and the only thing that we need to learn is memorization and making things more natural.”

While Bailey Matsumoto was getting grilled by the green prosecution team, Clark’s yellow  defense team’s Matsumoto wasn’t appearing guilty that night. The defense attorneys successfully proved her innocence by executing their questions to their witnesses exceptionally well, according to the judge. 

Sophomore Shirley Putti said that Clark’s Mock Trial team seemed to be in better shape than the school they went against due to memorization and knowledge on the proper responses to objections. “I was more prepared and I looked like I practiced more,” Putti said.

Both teams scored more than 300 points on the first round, which is an improvement from last year, since the previous teams learned less than 300 points in the first round.