Student Lawyers Make Mock Trial Count

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The Payson High School Mock Trial team placed third in its first regional competition since the team was created earlier this year.

"In its fledgling year, the team was impressed by its competition and surprised that we actually knocked one of the Northland Preparatory Academy's four teams out of their typical first through fourth placement," wrote Anna Van Zile in an e-mail to the Payson Roundup.

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Of nine teams, Payson placed third in its first Mock Trial competition. The team consisted of (back row, left to right) Kyle DeVoe, Rachel Ward, Jerrod Walton, and Nick Ford and (front row) Aubrey Laird, Brittney Leafty, Ammon Carter and Ben Rogers. Carter also received recognition as an individual participant.

Van Zile is a PHS English teacher. She and Mike Snively, the juvenile probation officer from PHS, are staff advisers to the team.

"In our first round, they competed against Northland's number two team, and that was a bit intimidating," Van Zile wrote. "But the kids rallied and regained their composure, making the round very close.

"Our attorney coaches, Patti Wortman and Lacy Hakim, (from the Gila County Attorney's office) were ecstatic, and Mike Snively and I were mildly shocked."

The Payson students competed against nine teams from Bradshaw Mountain, Northland Preparatory Academy, Prescott High, Tri-City Prep and Yavapai County High. Northland fielded four teams and took first, second and fourth.

Most of the schools represented have Mock Trial clubs as a daily class, Snively said. Payson students began meeting together at the end of November.

The students were asked to argue a negligent manslaughter case in 35 minutes.

The premise was that a wildland fire near Mormon Lake caused the death of two lodge owners in the area.

The case supposed that a 20-year-old camp counselor shot off fireworks at a nearby camp when the forest was closed, due to fire restrictions.

The defense argued that there was lightning in the area on the night in question.

The students played the parts of the prosecution, defense lawyers and witnesses.

Teams were scored by several Superior Court judges and one U.S. District Court judge, based on their knowledge of courtroom procedures, how well they argued the case, direct and cross, getting evidence admitted into the record, making objections, opening and closing statements, and knowledge of the material.

While Northland Prep took the first- and second-place spots that will allow them to go to the state competition, Snively and Van Zile hope next year Payson will head to state.

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