Thomasville City Scholars Academy students experimented with research and the skills of argument as they prepared and competed in Mock Trial competition at the Valdosta Courthouse last weekend.
Sharon Autry, Malley Celaya, Matthew Cline, Jacob Cone, Jeremy Cooper, Grace Fletcher, Durant Fullington, Asa Harbin, Mason Hodge, Ryan Owens, Jacob Rieber, and Ansley Renfroe under the direction of Advanced Placement Psychology, U.S. History, and World History teacher Erin White advanced to the second round and come home with four individual awards. Rieber and Cline were awarded “Outstanding Witness” and Cone and Rebecca Jane White were awarded “Outstanding Attorney.”
“The case this year was over a homicide, and who was involved in committing it. My role as a detective was to testify as to what I saw in my investigation after the crime itself was committed,” said Owens.
Rieber played Talbot Berrien, the convicted murderer who was pleading not guilty.
Owens, a newcomer to Mock Trial explained his understanding of the competition by saying that there are lawyers and witnesses that participate in a case provided by the state. In competitions, the prosecution competes against another school’s defense and our defense competes against another school’s prosecution.
“My favorite part of Mock Trial is the competitive, yet fun atmosphere,” said Owens. “We aren’t all working together, but we’re all working towards the same goal.”
The benefits of being on the Mock Trial team are that you can get a real look into what actually goes down in a court,” said Owens.
Ansley Renfroe was a newbie to Mock Trial who joined because it not only looks great on a college application but it also helps her to see if a law would be a good career path for her. She played the role of a prosecuting attorney.
“When I am crossing a witness, it is perfectly acceptable to be sassy and that's what I do best,” said Renfroe.
“I enjoy seeing what the students come up with and watching them accomplish a goal as a team, said White.
Many of the students that are in Mock Trial are involved in Thomasville City Schools Drama Program participating in One Act and the spring musical, which gives them an edge when portraying the roles of businessmen or attorneys.
“We have awesome actors so it’s fun to see how they interpret their roles,” said White.
White stated that the biggest challenge was finding time to practice because the kids are involved in so many other things.
“Just like every other year, it all came together because they are very smart and talented human beings,” said White.
Rieber recognizes that the competition improves his analytical and speaking skills and helps him to think on his feet.
“I love the almost "chess game" mindset associated with the competition. As a witness, I'm required to try and make my team and me appear as innocent as possible, so it is my job to think ahead of what I'm being ask in order to avoid any potentially damning questions,” said Rieber.
Autry served as an attorney for the defense team.
“I like the challenge of reading the various statements and piecing them together into a cohesive story. It is fun to find various angles that can be taken in regard to the witnesses,” said Autry.
According to gabar.org, Georgia Mock Trial Competition is a project of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia and hosts a high school competition each year for students ages 14-19. Each team is made up of 14 competing students. The team is then divided up into two squads: Prosecution/Plaintiff and Defense. Each squad has 7 members: 3 attorneys, 3 witnesses and 1 time keeper. Both will compete at the same time on competition day and will work together for an overall team record. The competition is open to public and private high schools, as well as several homeschool associations. The competition is strictly an after school activity. All team activities and preparation for the competition must happen during after school hours.