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Students from Blackfoot and Firth high schools will have a full day in a real Bingham County courtroom on Saturday. They will be competing in the annual "Idaho Law Foundation's" Mock Trial Competition.
Four teams consisting of 6 to 9 students from Valerie Williams (BHS) and Trevor Clayson's (FHS) "Mock Trial Classes" will compete against one another, playing various roles as they simulate a real trial on "battery and bullying allegations."
Local attorneys Ann Taylor and Jared Harris volunteered as "attorney coaches" preparing the students for the competition.
"The teams don't know until the day of the competition whether they will play a role on the prosecution side or the defense side...so they have to be prepared for both. The trial is held in an actual courtroom and is as close to the 'real deal' as you can get," Harris explained. "My job as a coach is to help them with the legal side of things - addressing objections and offering trial strategies for the both the prosecution and the defense."
Local teachers, judges, attorneys and community members judge the event.
"The kids aren't judged on if they 'win or lose;' they are judged on well they presented the facts," Harris said.
Harris, who has served as an attorney coach for the program since the early 90's, said that the day of the competition he is a "spectator only" and that he has to sit in the back of the courtroom.
"I'm not allowed to say anything...I can only watch and sometimes that drives me crazy...I want to jump up and say something," he joked.
Three of four of the teams from the local competition will move on to compete in the state competition in Boise (March 20-22) where teams will present the same case, participating in four trials over two evenings against other teams from around the state. From there, four teams move on to the semifinal rounds and two teams to the national championship round in Indianapolis, Ind. (May 9-11).
More than 250 high school students from 24 teams in 14 schools participate it the Idaho Law Foundation's Law Mock Trial Competion. The foundation is a 'non-profit' service branch of the Idaho State Bar Association.
"The kids take this seriously and put a lot of time into this competition," Harris said. "Some of these kids have never seen the inside of a real courtroom. They are good kids who have never been on the other side of the system."
The public is encouraged to come and watch the mock trial from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bingham County Courthouse.
"We start training for this event at the first of December," said Williams, who has worked with the mock trial program for a number of years. "It's a real learning curve for these students and we hope the community will come support them and watch them on Saturday."