Final Four Square Off in Student Mock Trials Competition

RIVERSIDE – The last four high school teams to make it into the semifinal rounds of the 31st annual Riverside County Mock Trial Competition will match wits on law and criminal procedure, vying for a chance to represent the county in the statewide contest.

Over the last month, more than 500 students from 26 area high schools played the parts of deputy district attorneys, defense attorneys, bailiffs, witnesses, clerks and investigators in the hope of advancing to the final round of the competition, which will follow the semifinals this morning.

The event is slated to begin at 9 a.m. at the Riverside Historic Courthouse, 4050 Main St., according to the county Office of Education, which is sponsoring the event along with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the Riverside County Bar Association and the Superior Court.

The four teams competing in the semifinals are Great Oak High School from Temecula, Hemet High School, King High School from Riverside and Poly High School from Riverside. The latter holds the championship title from last year’s meet.

This year’s contest has challenged students to successfully argue for or against the conviction of a high school boy charged with second-degree murder in the fictional death of a classmate. Contestants are given an allotted time, generally four to six minutes, at each stage of a proceeding, including opening and closing statements and cross-examinations.

Practicing attorneys and judges assess students’ performance and award points according to criteria established for the competition.

The county began holding student-level mock trials in 1983 and, over that span, more than 11,000 youths have participated, organizers said.

After the final round this afternoon, an awards ceremony is planned, during which medals and plaques will be furnished to first-, second and third- place finishers.

The highest-scoring team will go on to represent the county at the State Mock Trial Competition in San Jose on March 21.

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