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Another Successful Season for the Oklahoma High School Mock Trial Program

By Andrea Medley

Owasso High School was guaranteed to be the winner with two teams from the same school competing in the finals for the third straight year. Teams Rutherford and RDEX pose for a photo with their coaches.

The 40th year of the High School Mock Trial Program is in the books. Once again, high school students tackled relevant topics in the case materials. After receiving the case in late October, the teams absorbed the case materials that included witness statements, exhibits, jury instructions and applicable case law to prepare and argue both sides of the case in competition at courthouses across the state.

The case this year was a criminal prosecution of 18-year-old Kristen Taylor following a one-vehicle accident and subsequent delivery and death of her baby. The state charged Ms. Taylor with negligent homicide, alleging Ms. Taylor was intoxicated and caused the accident which caused the premature birth and death of her child. The defense argued the accident was caused by a defect in Ms. Taylor’s vehicle and the death of her child was caused by a previously unknown genetic condition. The case involved fact witnesses, medical experts and an accident reconstructionist.

FINAL ROUND AND STATE CHAMPIONS

On March 3, the top two teams competed in the final round of the year, presenting the case before an esteemed panel of judges in the Bell Courtroom at OU College of Law. The panel was Presiding Judge David Lewis, Judge Shon Irwin, Judge Patrick Wyrick, Judge Charles Goodwin and Retired Judge Glenn Adams.

For the third year in a row, the final two teams came from Owasso High School – Team Rutherford and Team RDEX. Team Rutherford is coached by teacher Dustin Devore and attorney coach Deirdre Dexter. Team members are Emily Carr, Preston Dunbar, Maggie Hazelrigg, Sam Lee, Ronan Locker, Morgan Meyer, Kennedy Patterson, Logan Schofield and Kathryn Turner. Team RDEX is coached by teacher Dustin Devore and attorney coach Nicole Longwell. Team members are Jesse Anderson, Aubrey Broughton, Melody Carney, Kelli Casteel, Hannah Robbins, Eden Rodriguez, Ryan Rodriguez, Lauren Siegfried, Helena Walker and Cole Wyrick.

The final round was a testament to the level of competition and talent the mock trial program has become accustomed to seeing from Oklahoma high school students. In the end, Owasso High School Team Rutherford prevailed and are the Oklahoma High School Mock Trial champions for 2020.

As the state champions, Team Rutherford was to represent Oklahoma at the National Mock Trial Competition in Evansville, Indiana, in May. Sadly, the championship was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS

The Mock Trial Program continues to grow as more schools from across the state participate. This year’s competition featured 40 teams from 22 different schools. The teams who participated in the semifinal round and their final rankings were:

  • 3rd Place - McAlester High School Team Black
  • 4th Place - Clinton High School Team Gold
  • 5th Place - Broken Arrow High School Black
  • 6th Place - Ada High School Varsity
  • 7th Place - McAlester High School Team Gold
  • 8th Place - Stillwater High School Advanced (Killer Bees)

For the first time, McAlester High School had two teams in the top eight which is an accomplishment and speaks to the strength of their mock trial program.

Another first for this year, Clinton High School and the Custer County Bar Association graciously hosted the mock trial workshop. The workshop takes place before the case is released each year and provides schools the opportunity to improve their skills in different aspects of the competition. The High School Mock Trial Committee thanks both Clinton High School and the Custer County Bar Association for their dedication and support of the program.

COURTROOM ARTIST COMPETITION

The Mock Trial Courtroom Artist Competition continues to grow in its second year. The committee started this competition to provide a platform for talented artists from the competing schools to display their talents. The Courtroom Artist Competition is done during the second round of competition and must be started and completed during the round. Students participating were required to independently complete their submissions, depicting actual courtroom scenes observed by the artist during the trial. The winner of the competition this year was Niko Lam from Clinton High School.

BENEFITS OF MOCK TRIAL

I am not sure there is a way to measure the benefits and influence of the High School Mock Trial Program. The 40 years of Oklahoma mock trial has created a community of mock trial veterans, some pursuing careers in law and many others impacting our state in different arenas. I talk to many people who tell fond stories of their years in mock trial and the influence it had on them personally and in their careers. For most, it brought a love of the law, but for all it brought a love of mock trial.

Two of the judges scoring at the final round this year were former mock trial competitors – Judge Patrick Wyrick and Judge Charles Goodwin. In attendance at finals this year was Judge Goodwin’s mother, Nancy Goodwin, who is credited with starting the mock trial program at Clinton High School. Mrs. Goodwin remains an advocate for mock trial stating, “It is the best program in high school.” Many share these same sentiments and show their appreciation in giving back to the program in one way or another.

The skills learned through mock trial equip students whether they pursue careers in the law or some other field. Skills including public speaking, analytical thinking and teamwork are some of the things learned through this program. The reward of seeing a student gain confidence and skills as the season progresses rejuvenates and fuels participation in this program year after year.

PROGRAM PARTNERS

The High School Mock Trial Program’s success is a joint effort from several key partners, each playing a role in the success of
the program:

The Oklahoma Bar Foundation who generously funds the mock trial program; Judges and lawyers from across the state who generously give their time to preside over and score rounds of competition;
Courthouses and courthouse personnel across the state who open their doors to students to provide a real courtroom environment for competition; and Attorney coaches and teachers who donate countless hours to coach their teams for competition. I want to personally thank the members of the Mock Trial Committee for their work in preparation of the case materials and oversight of the competition. Committee members are Immediate Past Chair Kevin Cunningham, Shea Bracken, Jennifer Bruner, Andrew Casey, Christine Cave, Dan Couch, Brittany Hayes, Dillon Langley, Todd Murray, Michael Nesser, Nathan Richter, Orion Strand, Austin Vance and Weston Watts.

A special thanks to our State Coordinator Judy Spencer, the heart and soul of Oklahoma mock trial, who works tirelessly to promote mock trial and encourage every person involved in this program. If you are interested in being a part of the committee, volunteering for next year or have a story to share about mock trial, email mocktrial@okbar.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Medley practices in Tulsa and serves as the chairperson of the Oklahoma High School Mock Trial Committee.

ATTORNEY COACHES

  • Luke Adams
  • Ranada Adams
  • Shar Agosta
  • John Andrew
  • Clifton Baker
  • Retired Judge James Bland
  • Eric Cavett
  • Judge Daman Cantrell
  • Angie Dean
  • Deirdre Dexter
  • Preston Draper
  • Jeffrey Fischer
  • Eddie Foraker
  • Eric Granthem
  • Cliff Heckert
  • Brian Henderson
  • Mike Horn
  • Judge Douglas Kirkley
  • Steve Kunzweiler
  • Jennifer Lawmaster Stalls
  • Nicole Longwell
  • Tim Maxcey
  • Joy Maxwell
  • Brian McLaughlin
  • Judge Tim Mills
  • Anthony Moore
  • Lori Rogers
  • Leah Roper
  • Desmond Sides
  • Connie Smothermon
  • Richard Smothermon
  • Charles Sullivan
  • Laura Thomas
  • Ken Underwood
  • Judge Jill Weedon
  • TRIAL SITE COORDINATORS
  • Valerie Blackstock
  • Deresa Clark
  • Kevin Cunningham
  • Brittany Hayes
  • Rebecca Hunter
  • Patrick Layden
  • April McClure
  • Andrea Medley
  • Anne Mize
  • Todd Murray
  • Michael Nesser
  • Susie Summers
  • Leah Terrill-Nessmith
  • Carol Thompson
  • Renée Troxel
  • Kathryn Walker
  • Weston Watts

PRESIDING AND SCORING PANELIST VOLUNTEERS

  • Ken Adams
  • Retired Judge Glenn Adams
  • Lynn Anderson**
  • Paul Austin
  • Shannon Bickham
  • Judge Jerry Bass
  • Lew Berkowitz*
  • Howard Berkson *****
  • Larry Biddulph
  • Kelly Bishop*
  • Eli Bland
  • Cody Bowlin
  • James Branum
  • Jennifer Bridgforth
  • Rodney Brook
  • Elizabeth Brown
  • Pam Brown
  • Jennifer Bruner
  • Travis Cagle
  • Joseph Casey*
  • Dietmar Caudle
  • Shanika Chapman
  • Lindsey Christopher
  • Jason Christopher **
  • Sonya Chronister
  • Aaron Compton
  • Eric Cook
  • John Cramer
  • Dan Crawford*******
  • Retired Judge Edward Cunningham****
  • Kevin Cunningham
  • Seth Day
  • Michael Denton**
  • Chance Denton
  • Kara Didier
  • Judge Donna Dirickson
  • Allyson Dow
  • Stephanie Duran
  • Blake Dutcher
  • Josh Edwards*
  • Judge Shon Erwin***
  • Jeff Fischer*
  • Grant Fitz*
  • Craig Fitzgerald*
  • Gus Farrar
  • Roger Foster
  • Michelle Freeman
  • Jodie Gage
  • Debra Gee*
  • Charles Geister
  • Robert Gifford
  • Julie Gragg-Landes*
  • Eric Grantham
  • Judge Sarah Hall
  • David Hammer*
  • Heather Hammond
  • John Tyler Hammons
  • James Hankins
  • Judge Howard Haralson*
  • R. Stephen Haynes
  • Deborah Hackler
  • Judge Tim Henderson
  • Shane Henry
  • Judge Paul Hesse*
  • Kurt Hoffman***
  • Mitch Holliman
  • Peyton Howell*
  • Tara Inhofe**
  • Robert Jaques****
  • Jo Lynn Jeter
  • Chad Kelliher
  • Rick Knighton
  • Maggie Lanier
  • Kent Larson*
  • Anne Lawrence**
  • Lacie Lawson
  • Molly Lawyer***
  • Kevin Lewis
  • Amanda Lilley
  • Lauren Lindsey
  • Renee D. Little
  • Kristy Loyall
  • Janice Loyd
  • Mathew Lyons
  • Carin Marcussen
  • Kevyn Mattax*
  • Jacqueline McCormick
  • Law McMeans
  • Jan Meadows
  • Mike Miller
  • Mark Miller*
  • Garrad Mitchell
  • David Mosburg
  • Justin Mosteller*
  • Beth Muckala
  • Mike Mullins*
  • Austin Murrey
  • Drew Nichols
  • Keri Norris
  • Brandi Nowakowski
  • Elizabeth Odell*
  • Ashley Ogle*
  • Chanteau Orr
  • Jenna Owens
  • Amy Page***
  • Kim Payne
  • Kathleen Pence**
  • Lance Phillips
  • Amy Polumbo
  • Dan Pond
  • Sonja Porter*
  • Molly Priest
  • Thomas E. Prince
  • Scott Proctor
  • Dale Rex
  • Justin Rinck*
  • Thomas Roberston**
  • Erik Roscom
  • Timila Rother
  • Jacob Rowe
  • Mark Schwebke*********
  • Gessica Sewell
  • Micah Sexton
  • Jim Shaw
  • Thomas Showman
  • Angela Smith
  • Nicole Snapp-Holloway
  • Jeanne Snider
  • Beth Stanley
  • Lucas Stephens
  • Austin Stephenson
  • Chuck Sullivan*
  • Ryan Sullivan
  • Thomas Swafford
  • Paiten Taylor-Qualls*
  • Scott K. Thomas
  • Harold Thompson
  • Carolyn Thompson****
  • Joe Trail
  • Roy Tucker
  • Meredith Turpin
  • Jonathan Udoka
  • Eddie Valdez
  • Allison VanBrunt
  • Georgenia Van Tuyl**
  • Laina Vaughn*
  • Judge Jeff Virgin
  • Austin C. Walters
  • Bev Watts
  • Shannon Weaver
  • Lucas West
  • Sara Wiegerig
  • Jimmy Williams
  • Cory T. Williams
  • Greg Wilson
  • Deanne Wilson
  • Clay Zelbst

*Denotes additional times volunteered

 

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- OBJ Vol 91 No 4 (April 2020)