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The annual mock trial season wrap-up email was more fun to write last year. Only two schools have ever won consecutive National High School Mock Trial Championships. For Seattle Prep, it was not to be. At the National tournament in Raleigh, Seattle Prep, representing Washington State, placed 15th overall in a field of 46 state champions, winning two trials, losing two, and earning eight ballots along the way. A Sacred Heart school from Nebraska beat Georgia in the final round. Neither team had been to Nationals before.

Washington got off to a good start with a tough draw, beating California, 3-0, in the first round. The team then dropped two trials in a row, losing 2-1 in each, to North Carolina and Pennsylvania. A strong finish against Colorado in round four earned Washington three more ballots, taking the team to the top slot of the teams that went 2-2 in rounds. For what it is worth, Washington had the second-highest point total of any team in the tournament, but it is rounds and ballots that matter. All of Washington’s trials were clean, high level, and very competitive.

The case raised timely issues about justified use of force in policing. The fact pattern was loosely based on a recent piece of North Carolina history. The State's original copy of the Bill of Rights disappeared after the Civil War, but was eventually recovered in 2003 in an FBI sting operation. The mock trial case was set on July 4, 2014, at the State Capitol, and involved a 19-year-old Revolutionary War reenactor carrying a musket while trying to approach a state official at an exhibition of the original copy of the Bill of Rights. A security guard with a longstanding grudge against the reeanactor's family used a taser against the reenactor at top of a flight of stairs, causing the plaintiff fall down a flight of stairs and break his (or her) femur. As is always the case in mock trial, the plaintiff was headed for Olympic track glory, but for the injury.

At the gala on Saturday night, Justice Antonin Scalia offered the high school students his thoughts on the virtues of the “originalist” approach to interpreting the Constitution.

Since the National case came out on April 1, the team has benefitted from the help of many. Don Eaton's Franklin High School team worked up the case for scrimmages. Judges William Downing, John Coughenour, and James Robart presided over practice trials. Attorneys Peter Vial, David Ziff, Angelo Calfo, and Stephen Teply tried the Nationals case against the students. Attorney Ben Stafford also presided over a practice round, and his fellow Franklin alum, Peter Heineccius provided valuable notes. Two professionals with expertise on use-of-force issues that were central to the case -- retired WSP Captain Bill Larson and private security expert Greg Nelson -- took the time to educate the students about the dilemmas that police and security guards face as they make threat assessments.

The YMCA Youth and Government program sponsors Washington mock trial. Three members of the YMCA staff attended Nationals this year, Erik Schmidt, Marcia Isenberger, and Joan Steberl. The nine students on the Washington team were Will Daniels, Anna Ferron, Caroline Genster, Max Kroeger, Molly McCarthy, Davis Pessner, Maslyn Pessner, Evan Sarantinos, and Elizabeth Shields. The Seattle Prep coaches, faculty, parents, and program alums who helped the team prepare for Nationals or supported the team in Raleigh include Andy McCarthy, Jen Freeman, Taylor Larson, Adam Othman, Kathy Tullis, Megan Coluccio, Bill Ferron, Joe Genster, Nick Crown, John Bailey, Casey Schmidt, Sarah McCarthy, Emily Albi, and Erica Strathern. Many Prep parents and grandparents attended as well.

Posted: June 12, 2015 - 12:39pm

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