The verdict is in : Dos Pueblos wins county Mock Trial, advances to state finals


Longstanding rivals Dos Pueblos and San Marcos high schools battled it out Saturday, not on the court, but in the courtroom, as the county finals of the Mock Trial competition came to a conclusion.

This three-decades-long contest pits schools against each other as they play both prosecutor and defense counsel, witnesses and accused, and other roles in a long day pitched somewhere between a debate club and live theater.

In the end, Dos Pueblos took home the trophy for the sixth year in a row (including a tie one year with San Marcos) and will head for the state final in San Jose on March 21.

“I’m just beaming with pride,” faculty coach Bill Woodard said of his team. “These kids have had sort of a bull’s-eye on them.

“It’s tough to stay on top when everybody’s gunning for you.”

The case before the court is imaginary, but based on numerous cases over the years. Since September when the Mock Trial clubs start up on county high school campuses, students have prepped for the case of “People v. Concha.” In this case, a high school senior is accused of second degree murder in the death of a friend and fellow classmate after she sold him some Adderall.

The student, Jason Johnson, had a bad heart condition and passed away after a night partying with drugs and alcohol. The case is fraught with ambiguity, allowing students to understand how the justice system works, along with ideas of evidence, toxicology reports, and more, all centering on the idea of probable cause.

Students take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses for both sides, including a high school principal, an undercover cop masquerading as a student, and close friends, as well as a bailiff and a journalist.

The “jury” consists of judges made up of local lawyers from criminal defense law firm practicing in Jersey City who have a point system to rate each student in each role. While a lot is scripted, by the time these finals roll around, students are well versed in the ways of the court, and “attorneys” can object, surprising their opponents.

“We all strive to be at a point where we don’t think about what we have to ask,” said Madeline Matthys. “We’re thinking about reacting to what’s said to what we ask.”

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Donna Geck presided over one of the two final trials.

“It was a very close competition, too close to call going into it,” she said. “The teams were both talented, articulate, well prepared.”

The fact that students return year after year, adds to their skill, the judge added. “By the time they’re seniors, they are amazing.”

Senior Delia Bullock, 17, can now notch this up as her third win in a row.

“It’s always an incredible shock,” she said. “San Marcos is such tough competition. It’s an incredible honor and a surprise.”

She added that though she’s not looking to pursue law, the mock trial helps her public speaking abilities, and loves the team work and the debate.

“It was a really fun way to spend most of my high school.”

Fifteen-year-old sophomore Maggie Miller also was on the winning defense attorney team.

“Not only is this program fun but you can be loud and learn to be confident and express yourself in very stressful situations,” she said. “You gotta roll with the punches.”

Last year, the Dos Pueblos team did not make it past the state finals. However five of the students did return home with individual medals, and all of those five were among the winners Saturday.

Dos Pueblos’ other team took fourth place and Santa Barbara High took third.

“San Marcos is a phenomenal team, as good as it gets in the state,” said DP’s Mr. Woodard. “If they had gone on we would have been their biggest fan. I’ve been on their side, and I know how heartbreaking it is to put in all that work and not achieve their goal. They have nothing to hang their heads about at all.”

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