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AHS Mock Trial team makes it to semifinals in county competition

AHS prosecution attorneys Elliana Murdock and Trenton Borges, and pretrial attorney Sasha Oquendo, compete in the third round of county competition at the SLO County Courthouse against Morro Bay High School. Photo by Zachary Harder.

The AHS Mock Trial team made it to semi-finals in the 2020 San Luis Obispo County Mock Trial competition. Ms. Corey, the team’s advisor and teacher, said, “We made semi-finals this year! But it's not that we made it to out-rounds--we did it with 11 out of 18 possible students. This year we have struggled through dropped students, through illnesses, through a scaled-back commitment from our attorney coach. It has been an extremely challenging season! So to not only overcome those challenges, but to make it all the way to semis--that's HUGE.”

Mock Trial is offered to AHS students as an elective course that also includes the elements of a team. Every year, Mock Trial teams across California receive a new case packet, written by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, which includes the facts of the case, witness statements, and evidence exhibits. The students of each team then work for the rest of the year to form both a Prosecution and a Defense case. Students can have roles as attorneys, witnesses, and courtroom clerks or bailiffs. The goal is to imitate a real trial’s proceedings and students are scored based on presentation.

This year’s case was People v. Matsumoto, a murder trial. The defendent, Bailey Matsumoto, is being tried for the first degree murder of their spouse, Taylor Matsumoto, who drowned in the master bath of the couple’s mansion after recieving an injury to the head on the night of June 7, 2019. After arriving home intoxicated, the deceased drowned in a rose-petal bath that had been prepared by Bailey Matsumoto, complete with a bottle of champagne. The defense argues that this death was an accident, while the prosecution attempts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant struck the victim on the head with a golf club which caused them to drown.

The SLO County Mock Trial competitions take place every February at the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse where teams across the county come to compete. AHS placed fourth seed in the semi-final round of competition. Freshman Sasha Oquendo said, “Mock Trial was amazing this year! We had a great team that was equal parts hard work, funny moments, and friendship. I met so many great people this year because of this class, and I'll never forget it!”

The Hounds’ Defense lost to San Luis Obispo High School’s Prosecution in the first round of semi-finals on Feb. 11 with a final score of 0.5276 to 0.4724. Senior Samuel Waylett, who played the role of Bailey Matsumoto, the defendant, was one of the highest scorers with an 8.7 out of 10.

AHS’s Defense lost to Arroyo Grande High School’s Prosecution on Feb. 6 with a close score of 0.5110 to 0.4890. Ms. Corey said, “My favorite moment of the year had to be after we competed against Arroyo Grande. AG was heavily favored to win in that matchup, and we made them work for that win. I told the team immediately after that, win or lose, I could not be more proud of them.”

Atascadero’s Prosecution team beat Morro Bay High School’s Defense on Feb. 5 with a final score of 0.5018 to 0.4982. Senior and Lead Defense Attorney Elliana Murdock scored an 8.7 for her performance of the prosecution’s opening statement. Junior Morgan Orgeron, who played the role of Dr. Jules Jackson, scored an 8.7.

On Feb. 1, AHS’s Defense won their trial against Coast Union High School’s Prosecution with a total score of 0.5117 to 0.4883. Sophomore Renee Rivas scored an 8.5 for her presentation of the Pretrial Motion on behalf of the Defense. Lead Defense attorney and senior Madison Hosford scored an 8.5 for her presentation of the Defense’s Opening Statement, a 9.5 for her Direct Examination of witness Amari Woolpert, and a 9.5 for her Direct Examination of witness Bailey Matsumoto. Oquendo scored a 9.5 for her Direct Examination of Clampitt.

Earlier that day, the Hounds’ Prosecution lost to Templeton High School’s Defense with a score of 0.4772 to 0.5228. Murdock scored an 8.5 for her Direct Examination of witness Desi Kunsler. Rivas scored an 8.5 for her Direct Examination of Jules Jackson.

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