Alhambra High School defeated a Mock Trial powerhouse, Miramonte High School from Orinda, which has won Contra Costa County’s contest 11 of the past 15 years, and placed second overall this year, said the team’s teacher and coach, Frank Reichert.
In addition, Juliet Stephenson won awards for both sides of the pre-trial argument, which Reichart said “is amazing. It takes a huge amount of work just to do well on one side of the case, but to fully understand and argue both sides shows brilliance.”
“After the preliminary round of four matches, we were seeded fifth in the second round of eight,” he said of the contest that has high school students portray both prosecution and defense in a particular case and argue in front of judges in a courtroom.
“Our first match was against Miramonte,” he said.
Alhambra students went from that victory to the semi-final match against Acalanes High School, Lafayette, to reach the finals, when the team lost against California High School, San Ramon.
“We are very proud to have finished second this year,” he said. “It reflects the intelligence and excellent work put in by the students.”
This is Alhambra High School’s fifth time to finish second since 2005.
Participants who spoke for the prosecution this year are Stephenson, senior; Skye Kempner, senior; Hawraa Al-Janabi, junior, Tess Kempner, sophomore; Alan Kobylik, junior; Fiona Valentine, senior; Amtul Muqeet, sophomore; Alexis Yu, sophomore; and Nivia Buttar, freshman.
Students speaking for the defense are Stephenson; William Francis, senior; Amar Singh, senior; Kate Wohlford, senior; Claire Stone, junior; Gianna Nguyen, sophomore; Kim Misenhimer, junior; Madison Wilson, freshman; and Robert Corning, junior.
Stephenson’s prizes for best in role were best prosecution pre-trial and best defense pre-trial. Francis earned best defense closing; Muqeet, Stone, Misenhimer and Wilson earned best witness awards; and Buttar was named best court clerk.
The team has been practicing twice a week for an hour and a half each session since mid-September, Reichert said. Besides Reichert, the team was helped by Dawn Polvorosa, its volunteer attorney coach. She is a deputy public defender for Solano County, and has been volunteering at Alhambra High School for 21 years.
This is the 38th annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trial, which welcomes 15 teams from area high schools to compete throughout February in the A.F. Bray Courthouse in Martinez. It is organized by the Contra Costa County Office of Education.
Nearly a hundred practicing and retired attorneys as well as judges and law students, volunteer annually to help during the competition, which expanded from a program that started in Los Angeles schools in 1977 by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.
This year’s case is People v. Davidson, a criminal case in which Casey Davidson, of Acorn, has been accused of first degree murder in the death of another Acorn resident, Alex Thompson.
The case’s pre-trial argument centers on the Fourth Amendment protection of citizens against unreasonable search and seizures. Students study the case from both prosecution and defense standpoints, working with their teachers and coaches before the event.
Preliminary competitions began Jan. 30 and continued for three more nights. Quarter finals took place Feb. 13 and Semifinals were Feb. 15.
Finals were Feb. 20. Judges and attorneys scored their performances and provide feedback. California High School will go on to the state finals in Orange later this month.