Valle Crucis’ Eighth Grade Mock Trial Team proved its prowess in the courtroom at Appalachian State University recently, taking home the top spot in the Watauga County School Mock Trial Competition.

Teams of middle-schoolers from each of Watauga’s K-8 schools met at the Reich College of Education Jan. 18 to hash out the details of the competition’s latest case.

Each year, the mock trial contest challenges students to take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses in a simulated civil or criminal courtroom trial. Teams prepare and present both sides of the case, playing the part of the prosecution and defense over the course of the competition.

Mock trials proceed exactly as real trials do: after a student bailiff calls the court to order, student attorneys make opening statements, interview and cross examine student witnesses and offer closing arguments.

The competition is adjudicated by community volunteers — including actual lawyers and attorneys — who grade students on their detailed understanding of the case, their effective use of evidence and witness testimony and their overall ability to form and present a logical,
compelling argument.

Valle Crucis AIG Coordinator Sarah Hilton — who coached the winning team — said her students had spent weeks preparing for the detailed and nuanced work of the mock trial contest.

“The students have been actively working on preparing for this mock trial event since August,” Hilton said. “They have put forth countless hours carefully analyzing the case materials, writing opening/closing statements and editing question sets to ask witnesses.”

Hilton said the Mock Trial Competition gives her students the opportunity to greatly improve upon their critical thinking and collaboration skills.

WCS Director of Instructional Services Ike Smith, said mock trial gives students the opportunity to explore a career path that might otherwise be difficult to gain experience in.

“Mock Trial exposes students to a possible career path,” Smith said. “Without Mock Trial, our students may never have had occasion to walk in the shoes of an attorney and may never have considered pursuing the law as a profession. It gives our students a real-world forum in which to apply
essential skills they'll need in any career: close reading of informational texts; logical, well-organized writing; and compelling, polished public speaking.”

Valle Crucis placed first overall in the competition followed by teams from Bethel and Cove Creek.