LAKE TWP. The Lake Local High School mock trial teams have moved onto regional competitions scheduled for Feb. 16 at Summit County Court House. The teams made it through the district round on Jan. 26 to advance.
If they win at the regional competitions, they would advance to state competitions March 8-10 in Columbus. Winners at that level will advance to the nationals in Las Vegas in June. Last year, Lake Local’s teams advanced to the state level competition after winning at regionals.
This year, three teams with a total of 28 juniors and seniors, are getting ready to compete at regionals. The students are from the Legal Studies program offered through Lake Local’s College Tech programming. Two of the teams competed at the district level at the Summit County Court House and one team competed at the Canton Municipal Court.
"We have 16 students returning from last year and the teams are well prepared and have done additional practices, they are really self-directed this year," said Teresa Miller, teacher in the Legal Studies program.
Hours of practice, meetings after school, coming in during snow days, memorizing, communication and coaching provided by area lawyers and a teacher/advisor paid off big for three Lake High School mock trial teams.
"The competition this year, like always is tough. The team members have taken ownership of the need for practices and have done more than I assigned. Plus, they are really good at holding each other accountable and I think they will compete well at regionals," she added.
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," Miller said.
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.
"Students argued and will argue in the next competition for and against the motion. They play roles as attorneys or witnesses," Miller said.
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.
Lake’s mock trial teams benefited from having their own legal advisors who are real life professional lawyers, judges, or law students, to help prepare for their competition. This year Team Blue’s legal advisors were Attorney Ron Starkey (Starkey Law Firm) and Judge David Nist (Stark County Family Court). University of Akron law student Patrick Cannell advised the White Team, and attorney Adam Runkle, with Starkey Law Firm, and Lake Legal Studies Alumni Kyle Tisdale, a 2011 Lake graduate and University of Akron law student, advised the Red Team.
"I believe success breeds success. We had a great year last year and hope to do as well if not better this year. Based on the work ethics of the students involved this year, our chances of advancing are pretty good," Miller said.