The Scioto County Courthouse was full of lawyers, prosecutors, witnesses, and judges. That may not seem unusual for a courthouse, but these people were high school students from the area.
The annual School Mock Trial was in full swing on Friday morning. Schools across the country were holding mock trials on the same day.
Locally, the District Mock Trial Competition is coordinated by Sharee Price of the South Central Ohio ESC and Judge Howard H. Harcha, III. There were 11 high school teams from eight school districts, that were participating in the competition. Those schools represented were: Notre Dame, Portsmouth, Portsmouth West, River Valley, South Webster, St. Joseph Ironton, Valley and Wheelersburg. It is noted that teams that advance from the District Competition will be able to compete in the Regional Competition on February 15.
Cyndy Hykes, Bloom Vernon’s advisor, who brought two teams to the competition, said she has been doing mock trials for 20 years and she still loves doing it. “I think the group did good, they shortened the competition by having it two weeks earlier, but my objective is not whether they win or not, but are they learning to work as a team, are they learning about court proceedings?”
Bloom Vernon High School principal Brett Roberts was in attendance to watch the proceedings. “I’m always impressed with the students, they did a great job,” Roberts said. “I’ve been coming down for several years and I’m impressed with the kids, seeing them in a different setting. They are all dressed up and the preparation that they have put into this along with Ms. Hykes, they have put in the time.”
The Bloom Vernon team was against Wheelersburg, whose advisor is Evan Willis, and a twist to that is that, Hykes was his teacher, when he was student teaching and she did mock trial while he was with her. Willis said he had been Wheelersburg’s advisor for four years. “This is my favorite, I enjoy doing this,” Willis said . “I was proud of them, I thought they were one of the best mock trial teams.”
For this particular trial, Judge Mathew McFarland was the presiding judge. “All of the courtrooms had three judges in them, an actual judge in each one and some are attorneys, but they all volunteer their time for this,” Hykes said. “All of our legal advisors volunteer their time also.” She added the local bar association gets ‘kudos’ from her. During the trial McFarland talked to the students about the rules and what is expected for mock trial. He told them how certain things would be handled in a true court case, compared to what they were able to do in the mock trial situation.
Ashley Smith from Wheelersburg was the prosecutor in this case. “This is my favorite activity in school, she said. “This is my fourth year doing mock trial and I love it. We are like harsh in trial, but afterwards we say things like ‘you did such a good job’.”
Emily Sessor from Bloom Vernon was the expert witness. “It’s kind of exhilarating, because you basically know what you are supposed to say, like what you’re suppose to do, but whenever they get up there and start grilling you like that, as least for me, it fires me up and so it makes me even more like aware of what I’m saying and what I need to do,” Sessor said. She is a senior and has been doing mock trial for four years. The attorney for the Bloom Vernon team was Ethan Bloomfield.
In another courtroom was the team from Portsmouth West against River Valley. West had a very young team, with competing for the first time. Their advisor is Sarah Johnson who teaches English at West. This is her first year as the advisor. “I have enjoyed this, I knew from the beginning that it would take a lot of my time,” Johnson said. “I didn’t really realize just how much. I am very very proud of them.”
Evan Green, a sophomore, was the defense attorney for West and he said that last year he was a witness and then the attorney this year. “I definitely liked being the attorney more.” He said you could tell the first year team members were nervous by their faces, but that they did a good job. He also said by the time they are juniors and seniors, they will have learned what to do and expect.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740) 353-3101 ext. 1928