Mock trial places third in county competition

WHS’s mock trial team placed third out of eight teams in the Ventura County mock trial competition which occurred from Feb. 24-27.

The final eight schools, listed in descending order of their final rankings, were St. Bonaventure, Oak Park Black, WHS, Santa Susana Lincoln, Newbury Park Gold, St. Augustine, Oaks Christian Lions and Santa Susana Hamilton.

“We did so well compared to what we expected was going to happen,” said defense team captain Matty Schwartz ‘21. “The two teams ahead of us were just incredible. I really couldn’t have asked for much more this year.”

The WHS team is led by Schwartz, mock trial advisor Kayla Maxedon and prosecution team captain Quinn Moss ‘20. It consists of 16 students ranging from grades 9-12.

Maxedon, who is in her second year of advising the team and did mock trial herself as a student at WHS, attributes all the team’s success this year to the students.

“They wanted it, they gave each other feedback, and their willingness to listen to each other and help each other was everything,” said Maxedon.

This year’s case was People v. Matsumoto: A Murder Trial, which concerns Bailey Matsumoto, the founder of a company of self-driving trucks. In the trial, she is charged with murdering her spouse with a golf club and leaving him to drown in the bathtub after their son died while riding Bailey’s autonomous scooter. The WHS team acted as the defense and prosecution.

“My favorite part of mock trial is the fact that the whole team comes together and practices, and we put our intelligence and our brains all in one small room,” said defense witness Aviv Stabinsky ‘23. “We all try to hash out what the best plan is to get the defendant a not guilty verdict, or the opposite: to get the defendant a guilty verdict.”

Mock trial exercises students’ quick thinking, debate and public speaking skills. The Ventura County Office of Education website describes preparing a case as “an intellectually enriching experience.” 

“I love seeing the kids form these really close relationships, and I love seeing the growth that happens,” said Maxedon. “Sometimes kids… want to public speak, but they just don’t know how to, and then by the end of this, they’re coming up with these fantastic answers off the top of their head[s]. It’s really cool to see that change.”

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