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Island high school students head to court

While most students were still in bed sleeping on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 24, the Mercer Island High School Mock Trial Team was already hard at work, decked out in suits and dress shoes gearing up for the King County District Competition. Only a year after Mercer Island began the first student-initiated mock trial team, the sport has grown from one team of 13 students to two teams including 20 students. It has also become a MIHS club. At promptly 7:30 a.m., both teams headed down to the King County Court House to participate in the YMCA Youth and Government Mock Trial program.

The YMCA Mock Trial program, a 17 year old contest, allows high school students to participate in an actual courtroom drama with students (acting as “attorneys” and “witnesses”) preparing and presenting cases before real judges and juries.

About 300 students in 20 teams representing 12 different schools at the district event competing to qualify for the state competition this year. Participants develop critical thinking and analytical skills, learn the art of oral advocacy, and gain an overall respect for the role of law and the judiciary.

At the start of the school year, students are given a court case. The case includes pretrial motions, jury instructions, as well as witness statements. This year’s case was a civil action, concerning a rock star who is suing a photographer for assault and battery and invasion of privacy. The photographer is counter-suing for assault and defamation. Jurors had to decide which defendant or counter -defendant deserved relief and damages.

The Mercer Island students this year prepared three evenings a week from late November until the competition on last month. The students include, Micah Babinski, Lauren Byun, Michael Chien, Anthony Choy, Cherry Choy, PhillipHan, Beatrice Ho, Martin Ho, Sherrie Hsu, Evan Jensen, Andrew King, Jonathan Lee, Ella Mathews, Kiran Mathews, Robin Momii, Katie Monsma, Timothy Nguyen, Alexandre Puttick, Paula Trepman and Kaleb Tsang.

While most schools have classes and designated time to work on Mock Trial, “we have to take time out of our own lives, struggle to find places to meet, and work until our brains hurt,” said 13-year old student, Martin Ho.

This year, the team had three volunteer coaches which made this struggle much easier. Though the team did not make it to state, they had fun and did their best.

Mercer Island came away from the event with an outstanding attorney award going to Beatrice Ho and an outstanding witness award for Katie Monsma.

The team was supported by the Mercer Island Schools Foundation, the advisor Susan Sutherin, their parents, the YMCA, and attorneys, David East, Mark O’Halloran, and Elena Garella. They are also looking for opportunities for future funding and coaches. For more information please contact Beatrice Ho (206) 367-7032 or by e-mail beaho1@gmail.com

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