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AJMS mock trial team goes to state finals, places seventh

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By Jesef Williams

The home of a journalist covering a highly anticipated football game has been vandalized.

The reporter singles out a student from one of the rival high schools as the culprit.

But whether that student is found at fault will be based on how the civil trial plays.

Students from Andrew Jackson Middle School found themselves in the middle of this fictitious case as they participated in this year’s S.C. Bar State Middle School Mock Trial Competition.

AJMS finished seventh in state finals, held Nov. 21 in Lexington.

Each participating school put forth a team that filled the roles of attorneys for the plaintiff and defense as well as witnesses, a bailiff and a timekeeper.

Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders comprised Andrew Jackson Middle’s team.

Amanda Mobley, an eighth-grader who played one of four attorneys for the plaintiff, said she was interested in doing the mock trial when sign up became available at AJ Middle a few months ago.

Mobley and the other students read through dozens of pages of material about the case.

Through the process, they learned about several legal terms and phrases, such as hearsay and ponderous of evidence, said Bardin Davis, an eighth-grader who served as a defense attorney.

“We learned about objections and rules,” Davis said. “When you’re unsure about something, you can say, ‘I’ll leave it to the court’s discretion.’”

The mock trial teams were judged on their presentation skills, rather than the legal merits of the case.

Scoring took into account thematic presentation, team coordination, team  sportsmanship and legal arguments woven in the entire presentation.

The plaintiff’s side from AJ Middle competed against the defense side from another school, and its defense side competed against the plaintiff’s side. Each school was guaranteed to compete in at least three rounds.

Mobley said the teams they went up against at the finals were strong.

“It was a little harder, a lot more competition there than at regionals,” Mobley said.

AJMS social studies teacher Glenn Robinson, who coached the group, said the experience teaches the students about democracy and the legal system while also allowing the students to expand their leadership skills, establish more confidence and think quicker on their feet.

“These are skills they’re going to need to be lifelong leaders,” Robinson said.

Elizabeth Hyatt Robinson of the Lancaster County Bar Association said she believes this was the first time a group from the county advanced to the state’s middle school mock trial finals.

AJ Middle School Principal Butch Dutton, who saw the students perform in Lexington, said the team did a good job.

“They represented us well,” Dutton said. “It was great. It really worked out well. I’m just proud of them.”

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152