'Like I was in a real courtroom:' Granite loses in mock trial semis, but impresses

VISALIA — Judge Antionio Reyes, presided over the Tulare County Mock Trial: The People vs. Franks held at Tulare County Courthouse in Visalia on Thursday between 15 Granite Hills High School Law Justice and Ethics Pathways students, and students from University Prep High School in Visalia in the semifinals, with University Prep coming away with the win.

The case was about theft and battery. The State (prosecution) was accusing Franks of stealing a valuable ring from Billie Scher that once belonged to Shakespeare, and that Franks pushed Billie Scher so hard, Scher suffered a broken arm.  

Scher and Franks were roommates and also actors in a play on a boat. So both were always competing for roles and had a rivalry. The ring was found in the coat of Jordan Franks, but Franks claimed he didn't know how it got in his coat. The ring box was thrown away in a public trash can, although defense claimed anyone could have thrown anything away in a public trash can. The prosecution argued there was motive on Frank's part because Franks was jealous of the roles Scher had and the ring Scher had.

Reyes ruled not guilty on battery and guilty on theft. The rulings don't matter in the end though, it comes down to points and the other team scored more points, said GHHS LJE Advisor and teacher Leisa Navarro.

The Mock Trial The People vs. Franks was intense and realistic, with students portraying a real case with lawyers for the prosecution, and defense, police detectives, antique jewelry experts, actresses, and other witnesses.

There were 15 students total on the Granite Hills team. And they were divided amongst prosecution and defense. Also advising the Granite Hills team were Judge Glade Roper, Glena Roper, and retired Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Robert Dempsie.  

Sadey Beck, Maricruz Negrette, and Estephania Lemus were the GHHS prosecution, Granite's Nicholas Huynh was the Court Transcriber,  and Melissa Quinonez, Yuvra Estrella, Nancy Palomares, Alexandra Mena were also on the team.

Three lawyers who watched the mock trial and made comments were complementary and enthusiastic of all the students regarding their hard work, their clarity of speaking, their preparation, and command of the facts of the case.

One of the lawyers said it was a great joy and a wonderful privilege to watch the mock trial, and they appreciated how the students replied to the judge when he asked them questions. He said, "You had a great command of the facts,"

The specific answers were really helpful, and there was clarity of speaking on why and where the participants were going, the attorney said. And the witnesses did excellent jobs, and testified with attitude, the attorney added.

Another lawyer said, "Everyone was well prepared. It was like I was in a real courtroom. Really spot on. It was very well done, and you were so well prepared.”

The students made articulate arguments, and had great attention to detail, the attorney said. The prosecution remained calm and cool the entire time, the attorney also said, adding he was impressed.

Reyes remarked he was a lawyer for 34 years, and has been a judge involved with mock trial since 1982, and said to all the teams, "You are excellent." 

He did say, "Be careful with your leading questions."

Huynh said, "I like how intense both teams were. It was hard to stay on top of what was happening during the mock trial, and I also appreciated being able to watch them and see both teams grow." Huynh is planning to become a lawyer and plans to major in legal studies and minor in music.

Lemus said she had a good time working in the trial and being there with the judge was nerve wracking but fun at the same time.The mock trial helped with her speaking abilities and confidence, she said.

“It helped everyone on the team gain confidence and learn how to project their voices and speak clearly,” she said. “It was very beneficial for all.”

She said it was also a way for her to bond with her teammates and have a memorable experience together. Lemus plans to continue with LJE and the law after high school.

Beck also said the trial was nerve wracking but fun, and she confirmed Reyes found the defendant guilty of robbery but innocent of the battery charge. So Franks did take the ring, Beck said.

"I just think the mock trial in general is really good for us, because a lot of us would like to be attorneys, judges, and police officers. This is a great way for us to get a feel for the legal system," Beck said.

Beck will be graduating this year, and has been in LJE since 2019 and would like to attend UC Irvine but will apply to other colleges. She said, "I know we didn't win the competition, but it was the process and the experience that matters, regardless of the results."

"It was a very exciting experience," said Palomares. "I was very nervous but felt that our team is very strong. We all worked really hard for six months to get where we were, and I feel that everyone was really excited and happy to be at the mock trial."

Palomares plans to major in something having to do with law and criminology and is interested in Stanislaus State after high school.

https://www.recorderonline.com/ Source: Porterville Recorder