For the third year in a row, the Belen High School Mock Trial team entered state competition as the regional champion, only to be disappointed when it finished in third place at the season finale.
“Belen is a really talented team,” said Michelle Giger, president of the Center for Civic Values, which sponsors the Mock Trial program in New Mexico. “They are among the best of the best in New Mexico.”
“We led the regional competition by 40 points,” Belen Coach Chauncy Matthews said of the Albuquerque regional competition, which was held in February. “But at state, Sandia High finished three points higher than us.”
After defeating Silver High’s blue squad 754 to 620 in the opening round at state, Sandia defeated Belen 582 to 578.
In the first round matches, Sandia defeated Mayfield, 724 to 657; Pojoaque bested Los Alamos, 776 to 682; and Rio Rancho beat Silver’s silver team, 734 to 711.
In the second round, Pojoaque defeated Rio Rancho, 544 to 523. Sandia won against Pojoaque, 1164 to 1142, in the finals.
“Belen was one of the strongest teams I’ve seen,” said District Judge John Pope, who has judged the competition for nine years. “I was the … judge in their match against Silver. Belen did an excellent job. However, I didn’t see them in the second round against Sandia, so I don’t know how they compared to their earlier performance.”
Pope was on one of the judging panels made up of members of the judiciary representing local, state and federal benches, along with lawyers, educators and business people.
This year’s case, produced and distributed by the Center for Civic Values, was the re-enactment of State of New Mexico vs. Townsend, a 2001 case. While debating who killed a homeless woman, the students learned about New Mexico law and how to present their case.
The Belen team’s eight members took roles in the courtroom drama as attorneys, witnesses and police officers to re-enact the trial.
Senior Lori Anne Carrillo’s performance as the victim’s daughter, Micky Jameson, received Most Effective Witness honors at both regional and state competitions.
Senior Jessica Miles and junior Brandi Hayes were named Most Effective Attorneys for their skills as both prosecutor and defense at regional and state competitions.
“My participation in mock trial has taught me that sometimes taking home a trophy isn’t necessarily as important as what you learn in the process,” Carrillo said. “I learned a lot about the legal system by participating in mock trial.”
Fellow senior Lauren Lopez, who has competed for four years, said participating has introduced her to the world of law. “I plan to go into law. Mock trial has helped me learn to speak eloquently and not get stressed when speaking in public.”
Also completing four years of participation in the extracurricular program was senior Jerah Cordova.
Joining Carrillo, Miles and Hayes in her second year of mock trial was junior Tiffany Romero.
Rookies on the team were juniors Elizabeth Chavez and Theresa Baca, both competing for the first time this year.