OHS Mock Trial team starts its first year
Osceola High school students have taken a step into the world of law. In their inaugural year, the Osceola High School Mock Trial Team started through community education programming and is organized by volunteers Becky Styles, and attorney coach, John Gearin. The team consists of 14 students currently and has already taken home a win after a competition January 7 against Irondale High School in Minnesota.
Because Minnesota has a well-established mock trial program through the Minnesota State Bar Association, Osceola’s mock trial team is competing against 139 teams across the St. Croix River at the historic Ramsay County Courthouse in St. Paul. Each team prepares to compete in a single mock trial and are scored on their performances against one another.
“There’s one case for the whole state,” says Styles. “All the teams prepare for this one case either on defense, or on prosecution, depending on when they are competing with three attorneys and three witnesses on each side. So, we have a defense and a prosecution team wrapped up in our one team at Osceola.”
The current case that the teams are competing on is a case of negligent homicide in which a friend provides opiates to another person who overdoses and dies. According to Gearin and Styles, a case like this is very complicated with many moving parts.
“This is a very, very difficult prosecution case because reasonable doubt can be shown everywhere,” says Styles. “There are fingerprints on the baggy that may have transferred hands, the person who washed the baggy was drunk – there are so many bits and pieces that make it very hard for prosecutors to figure out.”
“It’s a complicated case,” added Gearin.“But, I’m very impressed by the team’s grasp of the trial process and the understanding of the rules of evidence, including the difficult hearsay rule without any formal training.”
After each individual team is scored in the role they portray, the points are accumulated to determine if they will advance from sectionals, to regionals, to state, all the way to nationals, all the while helping the teams develop.
“All of the judges are attorneys and they score the kids on their performances in their role,” says Styles. “All of the witnesses get scored and all of the attorneys get scored. So, you don’t win if you win the case – you win by how well prepared you are. They give the kids incredible feedback about how they communicated and what they could do better next time. It’s really purposeful in growing kids.”
The OHS Mock Trial team’s next competition takes place Tuesday, January 21, when the defense and prosecution teams will take on St. Paul Central High School and Rosemount High School February 4. The OHS Mock Trial Team is open to new students and volunteers to join.
“It’s been a very fun and exciting experience for me to work with these students and help them learn the law,” says Gearin. “They’ve been working so hard.”