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Turlock students come up short in Mock Trials

POSTED December 15, 2009 11:51 p.m.
Turlock and Pitman high students spent the last three months learning how the court system works with the hope that their understanding could be turned into winning prosecution and defense teams. While their arguments were compelling, in the end, they were left with no appeal to move on in the Stanislaus County Mock Trials event.
The Stanislaus County Mock Trials took place Dec. 8 and Dec. 10 with the halls echoing the words of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the “plain view” exception and murder by strangulation from high school students in Stanislaus County.
Turlock and Pitman high were two of the 10 local schools that planned to find justice in the People v. Bratton case where Jordan Bratton, a resident of the town of Hollyville, was charged with murder in the first degree of entertainment critic Preston Palmer.
Sponsored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Gianelli & Associates, and the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County, in conjunction with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the annual High School Mock Trials competition provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate acquired listening, speaking, reading and reasoning skills. Working in teams, students study a hypothetical case, conduct legal research, and receive guidance from volunteer attorneys. By portraying each of the principals in the cast of courtroom characters — counsel, witnesses, court clerks, and bailiffs — students gain a working knowledge of the judicial system as well as an understanding of the link between the United States Constitution and the substance of the law. Each trial is conducted by a superior court judge and the teams are scored by attorneys practicing in Stanislaus County.
“It is amazing to see what these kids can do,” said Jill Ogden, Turlock High Mock Trial teacher and coach.
Both Turlock and Pitman high had 18 students on their team.
Turlock High students focused on court room etiquette, attorney objections and looked for little things to catch that other teams might have not caught, Ogden said.  
Pitman High students focused on the attorney objections and on details, said Graham Thomas, Pitman Mock Trial teacher and coach.
“We are going step by step, witness by witness,” Thomas said.
They also focused on the witnesses “dramatic delivery” to be in tune with the character of each witness, he said. They worked with each attorney as well, working on their debate and speech.
“We have a strong team this year,” Thomas said.
Each of the 10 schools competing went through six trials and at the end of the sixth trial, the points were tallied landing Johansen and Modesto as the top two teams with the most points.
Both Turlock High and Pitman High have never made it to the finals but that continues to be their goal.
Johansen and Modesto highs competed against each other in the championship round on Tuesday evening. Johansen came away with the victory and will be moving on to the state competition in Riverside in March 2010.  
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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