Deer Valley High’s Mock Trial team wins three of four rounds in this year’s virtual competition

The 40th Annual Contra Costa County High School Mock Trials were held virtually, this year from January 26 through the final round on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Antioch’s Deer Valley High team from the Law & Justice Academy won three of the first four rounds but fell to Acalanes High in the Quarter Finals. In the first and third rounds, as well as the Quarter Finals the Deer Valley team played in the role of the Defense. In rounds two and four, Deer Valley fulfilled the role of the Prosecution.

Deer Valley beat the team from Hercules High in Round 1, the team from Dougherty Valley High of San Ramon in Round 2 and the team from El Cerrito High in Round 4. They lost to Miramonte High of Orinda in Round 3.

The team from California High School of San Ramon won their fourth straight championship, beating Acalanes of Lafayette in the final round. The match was judged and scored by former judge and current Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, along with five Bay Area attorneys, serving as Mock Trial scorers.

Also, noteworthy, the Miramonte team defeated the Hercules High team during the same evening’s consolation match. This trial was judged and scored by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Steve Austin, along with five attorney scorers.

The 2021 top four teams were ranked in this order: 1) California High, 2) Acalanes High, 3) Miramonte High, 4) Hercules High. California High has now won four consecutive championships.

The Mock Trials Awards Ceremony were also held virtually, on Thursday, Feb. 18. Opening the event, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey gave the welcome and message to the attendees, followed by remarks made by Contra Costa County Superior Court Presiding Judge Rebecca Hardie, and the Mock Trial coaches presented their Coaches Awards to their exceptional-performing students. This was followed by the announcement of individual awards that were recorded by the volunteer Mock Trial judges and attorney scorers during the four opening preliminary rounds. The ceremony concluded with naming of this year’s championship team from Cal High.

“As like numerous other counties in California, this was a challenging year for our High School Mock Trial program,” said Superintendent Mackey. “Due to COVID-19, this was the first time in 40 years that we were not able to hold our trials in one of the Martinez courthouses, but instead held the competitions via Zoom Meetings. This year’s Mock Trial success was because of a group effort between our volunteer judges and attorneys and our staff, as well as the patient and dedicated team coaches and their determined students. Congratulations to all of you!”

Directed by their teaching coach, Brian Barr, California High will now represent Contra Costa County at the California State Mock Trial competition, March 18-22. The California state finalist team will then compete in the National Mock Trial Competition, held May 13-15.

Art Contest

In the Courtroom Art Contest, students participated as courtroom artists, a companion program to Mock Trials. As courtroom artists, students accompanied their Mock Trial teams and sketched courtroom scenes that were later judged by a team of art judges. The winner was Michelle Nguyen from California High School and will represent Contra Costa County at the state finals.

Journalism Contest

In the Courtroom Journalism Contest, participating students were given an opportunity to report on a Mock Trial from the perspective of a journalist. As courtroom reporters, students accompanied their school’s Mock Trial teams to the preliminary rounds of the competition. Courtroom reporters then wrote and submitted one 500-word news article on the trial they attended. Articles were judged by a panel of specialists. The winner, Nicholas Harvey, also from California High, will represent Contra Costa County at the state finals. Read  his winning article.

The honored guest speaker, Judge Hardie, told the audience, “Congratulations to all of the students, teachers, and coaches for a wonderful competition. I’m so pleased that we didn’t let COVID-19 get in the way of our historic and annual tradition. We are so proud of our longstanding partnership with the Mock Trial program. Here at the county’s Superior Court, Mock Trials is one of our favorite times of the year. And, I heard so many wonderful stories from this year’s volunteering judges. They all agreed about how seamless the trials went this year, especially adapting the competition from our physical courtrooms to virtual courtrooms. The students did not miss a beat!

Coordinated by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Mock Trial is an academic event provided for high school students. The hands-on educational program was created to help students acquire a working knowledge of our judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of our society.

This year’s case, People v. Croddy, is the trial of Lee Croddy who hosts a popular YouTube channel called The Right Choice of News (RCN). Croddy has been charged with two counts: (1) aiding and abetting in the commission of first-degree burglary by another, and (2) accessory after the fact. This case will also feature a pre-trial argument on the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and as set forth in Miranda v. Arizona.

Since the beginning of the school year, teams of high school students worked with teacher coaches and volunteer coaches to prepare their version of the criminal case, from both the prosecution and defense perspectives. Students assumed the roles of trial attorneys, pre-trial motion attorneys, witnesses, clerks, bailiffs, artists, and court journalists. During the Zoom Meetings, Mock Trial judges and attorneys scored the students’ presentations and provided immediate feedback.

This year, there were 18 teams from the following 19 Contra Costa County high schools competed: Acalanes High (Lafayette), Alhambra High (Martinez), California High (San Ramon), Campolindo High (Moraga), Carondelet High (Concord), De La Salle (Concord), De Anza High (Richmond), De La Salle (Concord), Deer Valley Law Academy (Antioch), Dougherty Valley High (San Ramon), El Cerrito High (El Cerrito), Hercules High (Hercules), Heritage High (Brentwood), Kennedy High (Richmond), Las Lomas High (Walnut Creek), Miramonte High (Orinda), Monte Vista High (Danville), Richmond High (Richmond). *Richmond High and Kennedy High combine students for one team.

Approximately 60 Bay Area practicing and retired attorneys and sworn judges volunteered their time and expertise to serve as Mock Trial attorney scorers and judges. These volunteers represented judges from the Contra Costa County Superior Courts, and attorney scorers included attorneys from Bay Area county District Attorney and Public Defender offices, the State Attorney General’s Office, and the California Department of Justice. Also serving as attorney scorers, were non-profit, public, private, and corporate attorneys. Because this year’s competition was virtual, there were attorneys volunteering from their offices in Los Angeles; San Diego; Truckee; and Olympia, Washington. In addition, senior students from two Bay Area law schools also lent a hand in scoring.

For all the team and individual results, visit the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s Mock Trial results web page. #cocomocktrial

In 1977, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) introduced the concept of mock trials to the Los Angeles schools. In 1980, the program expanded to the state level. The California Mock Trial Program currently involves more than 36 counties and over 8,000 student participants from more than 400 teams. Approximately 1,500 attorney volunteers serve as team coaches and scorers, and 500 Municipal, Superior, and Appellate Court judges preside over the trials.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Deer Valley High Mock Trial Preliminary Round victories


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