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Mock trial team ready for state competition

Clovis High School senior Vincent Williams cross-examines a witness during the CHS mock trial team’s practice Saturday at the Curry County Courthouse. Williams and the team defended their case against practicing lawyers. (CNJ photo by Eric Kluth)

Clovis High School mock trial team sponsor Therese Pacheco compared the organization to an athletic team. Students, after all, can earn a varsity letter.

“In fact, some of the athletes on the team say they are more drained from mock trial than the sports they play,” Pacheco said.

One mock trial session of testifying, objecting and statements can last 2 1/2 hours.

The team will compete in the mock trial state championship Friday and Saturday in Albuquerque. The 16-team competition will have two sessions each day.

The Clovis team placed fourth among 23 teams at regional competition held in Albuquerque in February. CHS is the only eastern New Mexico mock trial team competing in state competition.

Saturday, the team competed against a dream team of mock trial — Clovis-based lawyers Randall Harris, Matt Chandler and Tye Harmon.

Acting as the defense, the CHS mock trial team defeated the lawyers by a seven to five vote count. Students from local junior high schools comprised the jury.

CHS senior Tyrell Northcutt is in his third year on the team, and an attorney on this year’s squad. He plans to study law in college, perhaps at Fordham University.

“I know if we can go against these people we can beat anybody in state,” Northcutt said. “I think we held our own (on Saturday); it was evident how well we can do (this weekend). This is the best chance we have ever had.”

The mock trial case was designed by the Center for Civic Values in Albuquerque. In the case, Michael Miller, president of a white separatist group, is on trial for inspiring the murder of a black man. In competition, a random drawing decides whether teams play the part of prosecution or defense.

Junior Randy England is a first-year team member playing the part of Miller, who testifies in the trial. He said handling questions from the prosecution can be difficult.

“You look at this as a challenge to control him instead of him controlling you,” England said.

The case was presented to the team in October and since then, Pacheco said, the team has practiced before and after school about 15 hours per week.

Northcutt said competing against the attorneys gave them new ideas for arguments and objections. The team’s strength, he said, is closeness.

The team’s weakness is mental.

“When one of us is down, the whole team gets down,” Northcutt said.

Harris has been working off and on with the mock trial team for 12 years, he said, and was impressed with this squad’s arguments and knowledge of mock trial rules.

“I saw nothing gaping in their case,” Harris said. “I think these student attorneys are better than a lot of the attorneys in the state.”


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