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Students make Opening Statements

Students make Opening Statements

The public is invited to watch 14 Tulare County high school teams compete in the annual Tulare County Mock Trial Competition.

The Mock Trial competition opened yeseterday, Jan. 29, and is comprised of teams with 10 to 20 students who take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, court clerks and bailiffs. All teams must make their presentations based on identical hypothetical case materials. Each team, coached by local attorneys and school personnel, present the case for both the prosecution and defense twice during the course of the competition.

“The Mock Trial Competition is as exciting to watch as any courtroom drama,” says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “Our students do an incredible amount of preparation to understand the case law affecting their trial before taking on the roles of attorneys, witnesses and clerks. They do a masterful job of conducting themselves in court.”

All teams will present their cases before actual judges and attorneys, with three attorneys scoring each trial. The first four rounds and the semi-final round will take place in the Tulare County Superior Court (third floor). Open to the public, the trial dates are: January 29 & 31, and February 5 & 7 (preliminary rounds); and February 14 (semi-final round). Trials begin each night at 5:00 p.m. The finals will take place at El Diamante Theater (5100 W. Whitendale Ave., Visalia) on February 21 at 5:00 p.m. Members of the public, parents, students and teachers are welcome to attend any of the trials.

This year, student will argue the case People v. Vega. The case involves Adrian Vega, a prominent resident of Hidden Valley who is charged with failure to perform a duty following an accident (commonly referred to as felony hit-and-run). The prosecution alleges that Adrian Vega hit a bicyclist, Cameron Douglas. The prosecution argues that Adrian entered an intersection while he was texting, failed to stop at a stop sign, hit the victim, and then fled the scene. The defense argues that Adrian Vega was not the driver of the vehicle, and instead Toni De Luca, a foreign exchange student who lives on the Vegas’ property, was the driver of the vehicle that struck Cameron.

The pretrial issue in People v. Vega centers on the Fifth Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court decision as set forth in Miranda v. Arizona. The issue in this case is whether or not the circumstances surrounding the defendant’s interaction with the police amounted to custodial interrogation.

The teams competing in the 2013 Tulare County Mock Trial Competition are: Dinuba High School, El Diamante High School (Visalia), Exeter High School, Golden West High School (Visalia), Lindsay High School, Mission Oak High School (Tulare), Mt. Whitney High School (Visalia), Orosi High School, Redwood High School – Team A (Visalia), Redwood High School – Team B (Visalia), Tulare Union High School, Tulare Western High School, University Preparatory High School (Visalia) and Woodlake High School.

The Tulare County Office of Education would like to thank the many legal community volunteers who donate their time and expertise to make this competition possible. “Mock Trial is an extremely valuable competition,” says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. “We applaud the teachers and attorney-coaches for investing many hours in preparing their students for this event – giving them a glimpse into the workings of our judicial system.”

The Mock Trial Program is sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and co-sponsored by the California Department of Education, the State Bar of California, the Young Lawyers’ Association and the Daily Journal Corporation. The Tulare County Office of Education coordinates the program locally, with assistance from local attorneys and judges.

The champions from the final round of the Tulare County Mock Trial Competition will be eligible to compete in the annual state finals inRiverside, March 22-24. For more information, contact Joy Soares at 651-0501 or jsoares@ers.tcoe.org.

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