Students Countywide to Participate in Mock Trials

RIVERSIDE – More than 500 students from 26 area high schools will take on the roles of prosecutors and defense attorneys tomorrow for the start of the 31st annual Riverside County Mock Trial Competition.

The event will get underway about 6 p.m. at courthouses in Indio, Murrieta and Riverside. A total of five rounds, plus the semifinal and final rounds, are planned this month and the first weekend in March, according to the county Office of Education, which is sponsoring the effort along with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the Riverside County Bar Association and the Superior Court.

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

This year’s contest will challenge 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.

Student teams consisting of 8-20 youths will play the parts of deputy district attorneys, defense attorneys, bailiffs, witnesses, clerks and investigators.

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 will assess students’ performance and award points according to criteria established for the competition.

Students from public and private high schools can participate. Last year’s winning team was from Riverside Poly High School.

After the final round on March 1 at the Riverside Historic Courthouse, 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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