Carmel mock trial team on way to state finals

For the first time in four years, Carmel High’s mock trial team beat out Pacific Grove and won the Monterey County competition. Now the team is headed to compete at the state finals.

P.G. posed a particular threat to Carmel’s team: the two teams have been the finalists in Monterey County’s state-qualifying round for years on end.

The two teams first faced each other Feb. 2 in Carmel’s second trial of the competition . Before the case, Judge Adrienne M. Grover commented on the courtroom’s rising temperature: “Your county’s saving your money by cutting the air conditioning,” she joked. But the heat on the first floor of the Monterey County Superior Court was both literal and figurative.

After a courteous—but competitive—three-hour trial, Judge Grover announced that the fictional defendant, Evan Shem (portrayed by Anna Gumberg) was guilty.

Carmel had been the defense team that evening and had argued the case in hopes of getting a “not guilty” acquittal for their client. However, the verdict of a mock trial case has no bearing on the scores the teams are assigned.
As such, tensions ran high until noon the following day—when the team learned that the scoring judges had given Pacific Grove the victory.

The Carmel mock trial team after winning the county finals.

The Carmel mock trial team after winning the county finals.

The loss was a serious setback, but Carmel persevered and redoubled its efforts. Furthermore, as it has for the last few years, the team made sure to emphasize courtesy, professionalism and friendliness, both within and without the courthouse.

Later in the week, Carmel beat Santa Catalina, winning by a healthy margin. Then, on Saturday morning, the team beat Palma, ensuring its path to a final round matchup with Pacific Grove later that afternoon.

The trial was almost too close to count, but Judge Robert A. O’Farrell ruled in Pacific Grove’s favor. And as if to ratchet up the pressure even further, the scoring judges tied, leaving O’Farrell to decide the winner.

The Carmel team had put in a great amount of work into their season—from countless practices, meetings and scrimmages, to an invitational that the team had hosted at CHS, which had attracted numerous schools. Members of the team had even competed in an international competition, Empire, earlier in the year, where they won fourth place. But at this point, everything was on the line.

All the work clearly paid off. After a brief deliberation, Judge O’Farrell announced that Carmel had won the county finals.

Club president Erika DePalatis, like most of the team’s participants, was delighted by the victory.

“It’s like having a huge weight lifted off our chest,” DePalatis said after the win.

From March 20-22, the trial team, as well as the winners from the journalism and art competitions, will compete at the California State Finals in Riverside, Calif.
-Christopher Good, Mock Trial Participant