On Friday January 26, students from several Delaware County high schools (Big Walnut, Buckeye Valley, Delaware Hayes, and Village Academy), plus two out-of-county high schools (Marysville and St. Francis DeSales) will be participating in the 2018 Ohio High School Mock Trial Competition. The competition is a statewide event in which more than 3,500 high-school students participate each year.
In Delaware County, the district competition will be held in the courtrooms at the juvenile-and-probate court in the Hayes Building. Five student mock trials will take place from 9:15 a.m. until 11:15 a.m. on January 26, and then another five trials will be held from around 1:15 p.m. until 3:15 p.m. that day.
The high-school students who participate in the program are given written materials that enable them to portray witnesses and lawyers on both sides of a fictional legal dispute, and they present their cases to three-member panels of local attorneys who have volunteered their time to serve as judges for the competition. Each team is comprised of five to eleven students, and each team participates in two trials on the day of the competition.
The fictional case for the 2018 mock trials was drawn from the popular podcast “Serial,” and it focuses on a post-conviction petition filed by a man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. His petition alleges that his trial attorney mishandled cell-phone evidence and failed to present the testimony of a potential alibi witness.
Students who participate in the mock-trial competition learn firsthand about the law and about court procedures, and they build analytical and communication skills. District winners from throughout the state will advance to a regional competition on February 16. The state finals are on March 8-10 in Columbus.
The annual high-school mock-trial competition is sponsored by a nonprofit organization called the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE), which in turn is funded by the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Attorney General’s office, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the ACLU of Ohio. OCLRE also offers other programs designed to motivate young people to learn more about civics, government, and the law.
Information for this story was provided by Judge David Gormley, Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County.