Southern Oregon high school students face off in mock trial

Over the weekend, teams from five different high schools argued their cases in a real courtroom, before a real judge.

Posted: Mar 6, 2019 12:15 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Over the weekend, opposing groups of local high school students took one another to court.

Instead of true litigation, the event marked another observation of a time-honored tradition that has happened every March since 1987 — the National High School Mock Trial Competition.

There were a total of eight teams hailing from five different high schools competing at the event on Saturday, with many of the students involved having prepped for months.

"Since November or October we have been meeting for four hours every week," said Preston Jarvis, a freshman at Grants Pass High School.

There's a lot to practice for. Students put themselves in the roles of attorneys and witnesses, then compete against one another in front of a volunteer judge from the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

Up until just minutes before the trial begins, the students don't even know which side they will be arguing.

"You have to put in a lot of work in order to really know your part," said Jarvis. "Like, you've got to pretend to be someone, or you have to memorize questions for your witness."

A "jury" of other students then determines which team had better arguments, and chooses a winner after each round. Not only do students learn about the law, analytical thinking and public speaking, but they have fun in the process.

On Saturday, Jarvis was a witness.

"I just get to memorize a role, pretend to be a character, and have as much fun as I can while answering questions as if I was that character," he said.

Karis Paul, a sophomore at Grants Pass High, told NewsWatch 12 that it pays to be ready for anything.

"Well it's been pretty unpredictable, a lot of the teams didn't do what we thought they might so we've had a few twists thrown at us, but our team has recovered every time. It's overall been really fun," Paul said.

Last year, St. Mary's and Grants Pass High won the mock trial competition. The winning team from Saturday will go on to compete at the state level. If they win that round, they'll be competing at nationals.

"I think we have a pretty decent chance of going to state again this year," said Paul.

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