JACKSON TWP. One of the two teams from Jackson Local High School Mock Trial program has moved onto regional competitions scheduled for Friday at Summit County Court House. The team made it through the district round on Jan. 26 to advance.
In addition to one team advancing to the next level of competition, the teams earned additional awards at the district competition, including Outstanding Attorney won by Team Gold member Rana Yu and Outstanding Witness Award was won by Grace Sykes.
Team Purple won one of the two trials at the district competition (a team needs to win both trials to advance). One of Team Purple’s team members won the Outstanding Witness Award, Breven Miller.
If the Team Gold wins at the regional competitions, it will advance to state competitions March 8-10 in Columbus. Winners at that level will advance to the nationals in Las Vegas in June. The last time Jackson advanced on to regionals was in 2016.
"Team Gold’s members are all freshman and sophomores and they advanced with this being most of the team’s first experience with the competition," said freshman world history teacher and Mock Trial team advisor Matt MarLett. "Some of the freshman team members did participate in the middle school debate team last year so that’s been a big help to them. The last time Jackson advanced to the regionals was in 2016. We did come in fourth place in the state competition in the early 2000s."
There will be seven students on Team Gold who are advancing. Three of the students will be playing the role of attorneys and four will play the role of a witness. MarLett said all of the students on both teams put in extra practice times including over the Thanksgiving break. Plus, he said the students are "highly self-motivated."
Student teams from all the districts competing in Ohio argue the same case through district, regional and state competitions. They receive a new case if they go onto nationals.
The 2018 mock trial case is based on a real case from 2014 and the podcast "Serial." The case is about a student reopening his murder case from 1999 where he claims to have been wrongfully convicted of killing his girlfriend.
In order to qualify for regionals, each team had to successfully prosecute and defend an actual legal case, this year it’s the "State of Ohio vs. Adam Smith," (the actual name of the defendant has been changed.) It’s based on a 1999 crime in which "Adam Smith" was accused of allegedly murdering his girlfriend. In real life, the defendant is in prison awaiting a re-trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel, a Sixth Amendment right.
Teachers and volunteer legal advisors guide the Ohio Mock Trial Competition. Students participate in unscripted, original simulated trials written by attorneys. Team members argue both sides of the case in real courtrooms.
According to the Ohio Center for Law Related Education’s website, more than 3,500 high school students compete in the annual Ohio Mock Trial along with 1,000 teachers and legal professionals who volunteer their time to the program. It’s the largest non-athletic competition in Ohio and among the largest in the nation.
Jackson’s Mock Trial team benefited from volunteer help and support from Justin Greenfelder (attorney at Buckingham, Doolittle, & Burroughs) and Mike Bickis (assistant prosecutor with the Stark County Prosecutor's Office).
"Team Gold is ready to go in and compete. Part of their motivation is that they are so new to the program and they want to show how ready they’ve gotten. Win or lose, it’s a great learning experience for all of the students," MarLett said.