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Published January 16, 2008
Cheyenne East High School will send a team to the National High School Mock Trial Championship in Delaware in May, after winning the Wyoming competition at the University of Wyoming.
Lingle-Fort Laramie High School placed second and Torrington High School was third.
The University of Wyoming College of Law hosted the competition with funding from the Wyoming State Bar Foundation. Wyoming High School Mock Trial (WHSMT) competition is part of the Wyoming Partnership for Civic Education at UW's American Heritage Center.
Students from those three schools worked since October on a case selected by the WHSMT steering committee. During competition, teams presented both the prosecution and defense sides of the trial in a criminal case against a fictional defendant Pat Parker, who was charged with shooting at two acquaintances in the fictional town of Wind River City, Wyo.
After three rounds, the first, second and third places were decided based on scoring by "judges" -- attorneys and a circuit judge who volunteered for the task -- based on student performances in the roles of attorneys and witnesses. After each trial, the judges praised and advised students on topics that ranged from making objections to knowing when to stop asking questions.
The judges all expressed amazement at the quality of preparation by the teams, worthy of real courtrooms, and they praised the students' teachers and attorney coaches. For Cheyenne East, that was attorney George Powers and teacher Brian Bailey. For Lingle-Fort Laramie, that was state District Judge Keith Kautz and teacher Karen Kautz. For Torrington, that was Kristie McGuire, with various local attorneys helping out.
The judges were: Circuit Judge Tom Campbell of Cheyenne; Gary Way, a prosecutor in the city attorney's office in Casper; Zak Scekely, an assistant public defender for the state of Wyoming; Dan Blythe, an attorney in the federal public defender's office, Cheyenne; and Graham Smith, an appellate attorney for the Wyoming attorney general.
"Time and energy invested in these high school students are well spent. The kids worked hard and demonstrated a good understanding of our legal system," said Marguerite Herman, who coordinated WHSMT this year with Ian Shaw.
Powers said it was fun to watch his team practice in the same courtroom where he participated in a mock trial as a UW law student 25 years ago, in front of now retired District Judge Robert Ranck.
Mara Martin, a member of the Cheyenne East team, said, "I've learned how the legal system works, and how to ask leading questions."
Mock trial also has sharpened her skills in high school policy debate.
"I learned a lot just in the trials," she said. "There's no substitute for going against another team."
WHSMT is open to any high school that can field a team of six to eight students. The date and location of competition for the 2008-2009 academic year will be decided by the steering committee. That information and the case to be prepared will be posted on the Wyoming Partnership for Civic Education Web site by Sept. 1, 2008.
For more information about WHSMT, call Herman at (307) 638-1468 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of this year's teams are:
Cheyenne East -- Teacher Brian Bailey; Lauren Breckenridge, Steve Christofferson, Taryn Demers, Gordon Dobbs, Mara Martin, Tom Powers, Eleya Randall and Matt Richards.
Lingle-Fort Laramie -- Teacher Karen Kautz; Eric Avila, Mike Hill, Micaela Lira, Jessica Ostrander, Kathleen Pafford, Mallory Roitberg and Megan Weisshaar.
Torrington -- Teacher Kristi McGuire; Brooke Bailey, Teal Deen, Trevor Donly, Terri Ross, Jenny Voltmer and Cody Wood.