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M-PHS mock trial team competes

The nearly complete lineup of the Marysville-Pilchuck High School mock trial team.  From left, back row: Ice
The nearly complete lineup of the Marysville-Pilchuck High School mock trial team. From left, back row: Ice'Shay Wright, Alexandria Moll, Alyssa Zeigler, Brandon Maggiore and Mitchell Pearson. From left, middle row: Tricia Wright, Talia O'Neall, Joshua Riley, Michael Dorkin, Travis Sanderson and Rafael Carranza. From left, front row: Raechel Nall, Kayla Mullen, Hannah Jensen and Deanna Pardee. Not pictured: Travis Stout and Kyle Werner.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

MARYSVILLE — Not only is this the first year that the Marysville-Pilchuck High School mock trial team is heading to state competitions, but it's also the first year that M-PHS has had a mock trial team at all.

The 17-member team consists of three students as defense attorneys, three as prosecutors, four each as witnesses for the defense and prosecution, and three alternates and bailiffs. The mock trial competitions are part of the YMCA Youth and Government programs, which M-PHS social studies teacher Eric Hanson explained are designed to help students feel like "they have a personal stake in the system."

For the past six months, the M-PHS mock trial team has been studying a 200-page case, written by King County Superior Court Judge William Downing, which Hanson lauded as "well-crafted, with pitfalls built in." The goal of the student lawyers is to avoid those pitfalls in arguing their respective sides of the case, not only by demonstrating their knowledge of the courts system and case law, but also by developing effective strategies and projecting proper courtroom demeanor.

The M-PHS mock trial team came in third place at the Feb. 28 Everett competition, and they're heading to Olympia March 27 to compete on the state level.

M-PHS senior Mitchell Pearson, Ice'Shay Wright and Raechel Nall all joined the mock trial team for different reasons, but they all agreed that it's been tough going at times, especially since the team began by competing more against itself than against teams from other schools. In spite of the "huge rivalry" within the team at first, all three students agreed that the reality of facing well-prepared opponents united them in the knowledge that "we needed to get serious if we were going to succeed," in Wright's words, to which Nall added, "We're all in the same boat."

Pearson is one of the team's defense attorneys, and while he's more interested in pursuing a fire science degree, "it's hard to turn down the prospect of a free law degree," citing the scholarship awards that are available to competition winners. Pearson sees common ground in the law and firefighting, since "they're both about helping and giving back to the community." A football player, Pearson sees mock trial competitions as "exactly like sports," albeit in mentally and emotionally draining ways, rather than physical ones.

"The verdicts actually don't matter as much," Pearson said. "A lot of it goes back to sportsmanship, and the ability to think on your feet."

Nall, one of the team's prosecutors, agreed that the extra hours spent preparing each week can be tiring, but she already treasures the experiences she's gained. In spite of the stress, she enjoys doing the research and appreciates the creative outlet that mock trial has given her, especially in mapping out potential loopholes. Nall has been working at improving her speaking and organizational skills, as well as "catching onto objections earlier."

As a witness, Wright faces different challenges from Pearson or Nall. Like her peers, she has to know the case "forward and backward," but she also has to act out her role.

"You take on a character, memorizing it so much that it becomes a part of you," Wright said. "I've seen people cry in their roles. I'm never going to forget this experience."

Hanson added that the M-PHS mock trial team is still "desperately seeking" funding to make the trip to Olympia March 27. He can be contacted at the Teaching and Tech Academy of M-PHS.

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