Teams from Hemet, Murrieta, Riverside Battle for Title in Mock Trial Contest

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – High school teams from Hemet, Murrieta and Riverside will engage in a battle of wits and legal stratagems Tuesday to reach the final round in the Riverside County Mock Trial Competition.

The 41st annual event got underway during the last week of January at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta and the Riverside Hall of Justice.

Since then, the field of competitors has narrowed to four teams — Hemet High School, MLK High School in Riverside, Murrieta Valley High School and Notre Dame High School in Riverside.

The semifinal round will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Riverside Hall of Justice. The final meet will follow with two teams at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Riverside Historic Courthouse.

Notre Dame High won the competition for the first time last year, topping the legacy champions, Poly High, winners of the most team titles since the competitions began locally in the early 1980s.

Nearly 400 students from around 20 high schools started out in the county’s mock trials, which were in-person this year, after being virtual competitions in 2021 and 2022 to comply with school districts’ COVID-based health policies, according to the county Office of Education. The 2020 competition was completed prior to the school closures.

The Office of Education, in partnership with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Riverside County Bar Association and the Superior Court, sponsor the competition annually. The county began holding student-level mock trials in 1983. Nearly 15,000 youths have participated since then, according to organizers.

This year’s contest has challenged participants to successfully argue the fictitious case of People v. Franks, involving a cruise ship actor accused of beating and robbing a fellow performer, but with a host of evidentiary variables.

Teams consisting of eight to 25 students play the parts of deputy district attorneys, defense attorneys, bailiffs, witnesses, clerks and investigators. Contestants are given an allotted time, generally four to six minutes, at each stage of a proceeding, including opening and closing statements and cross-examinations.

Practicing attorneys and judges assess students’ performance and award points in accordance with criteria established for the competition.

Students from public and private high schools are permitted to take part.

The winner of this year’s contest will represent Riverside County at the California Mock Trials in Los Angeles during the weekend of March 17 to 19.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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