The Laramie High School Mock Trial teams recently finished in first and second place at the 2017 Wyoming High School Mock Trial state competition in Cheyenne and are representing Wyoming at the National High School Mock Trial tournament in in Reno, Nevada, in May.
To provide students with the time to learn legal practices and work on their presentations, the mock trial team is enrolled in a class called legal studies, LHS legal studies teacher Whitney Martin said.
She said the course does a number of things to prepare the students for competitions, including rehearsals in courtrooms to make presenting in courtrooms easier for students.
“We went over to the University of Wyoming Law School and used their large courtroom and invited law students, professors, deans, other people in the legal community as well as the high school staff to come and watch, judge and score the kids,” Martin said. “Having the kids in the atmosphere of a courtroom takes the nerves off when we went to state because they have been in a courtroom.”
She said enough students wanted to join the team that the school created two teams, which helped the students prepare for the competition. Martin, legal studies teacher Kyle Stucky and attorney coach James Learned also prepared the students for the state competition by having one team focus on one side of the trial and having the other team work on the other side to score as much points as they could.
“We will have one team prepare the plaintiff side and one team prepares the defense so then they can scrimmage (to work on their presentations),” she said. “You get points based on your opening statement, direct examination, cross examination, your closing argument and all the witnesses that are there also get points.”
The national competition is from May 10-12 at the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada, where they will be facing more experienced teams, she said.
To prepare the students for the competition while they wait, the students are going to have to find time before or after school when they can get together, Martin said.
“A national case is released April 1 and every school’s competition that won their state prepares it,” she said. “It is a lot more intense than state because our state competition only has eight teams and a lot of these schools that are coming from other states that have competed at a district level before they even got to the state competition.”
LHS junior MacKenzie Armijo said she enjoys being on the mock trial team and the legal studies class is her favorite because it is helping her prepare for being involved in the legal system which is what she wants to do.
“I want to be a lawyer when I grow up, so it is something I really enjoy,” Armijo said. “One of the things that I remember most is one of the professors at the law school (at a presentation rehearsal), they said I taught everyone how to be a lawyer during my closing.”
Armijo said she is nervous and excited to compete against schools from across the nation and she could feel how the school’s mock trial team improved from the last time they went to the Wyoming state competition in 2016 to where they are now.
“It was like we were the (new guys), it felt like we were on par or below a couple of other teams and we were not as prepared,” Armijo said.
“This year it was completely different, it felt like we were way ahead of everyone and we were more prepared.”