At the prompting of an attorney friend, I spent a good part of Saturday afternoon observing the YMCA Mock Trial state championship at the Thurston County Courthouse. I sat in Courtroom One, which I remembered fondly from my drug trial--by which I mean, the time I was called in for jury duty, but, as so often happens, a plea bargain cut things short and I never got my chance to pay my civic dues.
Someone who blundered into the room would've figured they were interrupting a real trial. Students were competent attorneys, fielding motions and objections, making speeches, and handling incisive questions from Snohomish County Judge Bruce Weiss. Witnesses put on a great show, too, whether as the unctuous colleague of the defendant, the punctilious crime scene investigator, or the nervous garbage truck driver. Teams had been preparing since October, and it showed.
The fictional case, written by Judge William Downing, was all too timely: a police officer on trial for 2nd-degree murder, having shot a "person of interest" in an arson investigation. The case featured dark alleys, ambiguous turns of events, conflicting testimony, dubious emails, political fallout--all the hallmarks of the nightly news.
With one exception: there must be some sort of rule requiring jokey names in a mock trial. When I was in 7th grade, I tried to prove that Herschel C. Lion was responsible for the murder of a local salmon. Saturday's trial featured a Detective Josephine Viernes ("Joe Friday") and medical examiner "Dr. Kildare." (Generation gap, anyone?)
Apparently I lucked into one of the best rounds ever, at least according to Judge Weiss, who had effusive praise for the young advocates, saying that they "did better than a lot of attorneys who appear before me as a part of their job." I was also quite impressed by what I saw, which I think was my friend's intent. Is Capital going to be able to field a Mock Trial team? I don't know. It requires a lot of training and prep work, and I'm already a stretched-thin debate coach. But it's certainly worth pursuing.