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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Convincing arguments by mock trial team

In a battle of the minds, Falcon High School’s mock trial team placed 14th at the Colorado Bar Association’s State High School Mock Trial Competition. Twenty-one teams vied for the state championship on March 13 and March 14 in Golden, Colo.FHS senior Abe Sehon received recognition as the “outstanding attorney” at the competition.Falcon placed second in the regional finals to win their seat at the state tournament and spent three months preparing for the state competition. Coach Lauren Murphy instructed them on character development, reviewing the pros and cons of a case, delivering opening and closing arguments and examining witnesses. The team also participated in scrimmages with other local schools. “It’s no different than being on a sports team,” said Allison Pinterpe, FHS senior and a three-year member of the team.Teams are provided information that includes the charges filed against the person on trial, the basis of the case, affidavits from witnesses, as well as other information to help them understand the case. Students are then assigned a role as a witness, defense attorney or prosecuting attorney. There are no scripts, but the courtroom scene plays out like a real trial. “We treat it as a sport, and the students can letter in it just like any other sport,” Murphy said. “I set high expectations and expect it to be taken seriously.”Murphy, a special education teacher, has coached the team for three years. As a member of her high school and college mock trial teams, she has developed a passion for the sport. Murphy loves to see the changes in the students – from quiet to confident. She said it gives her an opportunity to get to know students outside of the classroom.And it gives students an opportunity to get to know each other. They also have different reasons for their involvement. Sehon plans to pursue a law degree, while Pinterpe said she just enjoys the competition. Ted Gress, a violinist, said he wanted a break from class, so he attended the mock trial orientation. Amber Frazier’s father signed her up during orientation. “The team is great,” said Frazier, who also is a dancer. “We are very close and get along well. It is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too.”The mock trial competition is an education beyond book learning. “You learn there are consequences to your actions; that often, people are not what they seem … (you learn) the power of words,” Pinterpe said. Sehon said students also learn skills such as critical thinking, public speaking and improvisation.This will be the last year on the team for Sehon and Pinterpe, as they move on to college. Frazier and Gress plan to compete again next year. In Gress’s words: “This is what a team is all about.”

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