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DHS Mock Trial Places Second in Region

The Dalton High School Mock Trial team placed second at Regional Competition, after three grueling rounds over six hours of trial.

After placing in the top three teams at the district level in January, along with Union and Gilmer County high schools, the team advanced to the regional round in Cartersville on Feb. 17. DHS placed second to Union County at both competitions.

Mock Trial Team at Region

Team members are Omar Velazquez, Noah Gallman, Morgan Hurlock, Brisa Luna, Austin Rogers, Valerie Gonzalez, Sadie Hoy, Georgia Bronson, Priya Khote, Jessica Jaconetti, Rafael Duchesne, Sarah Jaconetti, Cole Young, Marcos Perez, Emily Adcock, Surbhi Bhatter, Catherine Nguyen and Kobe Stokes.

Senior Jessica Jaconetti said the team has not done this well since she was a freshman. "I feel like the team has come full circle since I started, and I put more effort into this case than anything I've done before. I didn't know I was capable, so to see that I am is amazing," she said. "I was able to do the case with my sister this year, and our uncle helped coach us, so it felt like a family effort. I just knew this was our year to shine."

Jaconetti also explained how much time each student puts in, working extra hours before and after school and on the weekends. Team practices usually start in September to help the students familiarize themselves with the process before the official case is released state-wide by the State Bar of Georgia. Students practice at least twice a week until January and then quite often more than that until the competition. They memorize, analyze, write, speak and think quickly on their feet to present a case, as in the real world, in front of real judges or practicing attorneys.

The case is as big as a textbook and the students study it from day one. Senior Georgia Bronson said students sometimes practice in the Whitfield County Courthouse. "It's interesting to see how we all grow into our specific characters and determine what kind of persona we will take on," she said. "One of our freshman struggled to go off-book at first and now he is awesome. It's just fun to see each person grow and become a great witness or attorney."

Advisor and teacher Minako Barry said parents are surprised and proud of their children when they see the results of their year-long efforts. "One parent told me that she did not realize how much work her child put into mock trial until she saw the actual competition," she said. "It's a tremendous learning experience for everyone, especially the students, who get a good idea of how the court system operates and how attorneys do their jobs in front of judges and juries."

Several practicing attorneys in the area volunteer to mentor DHS students and serve as official attorney-coaches. Marcy Muller, who practices at Georgia Legal Services, has been volunteering as the primary coach for the past six or seven years. One of her colleagues, Cassandre Damas, is the newest coach.

Chris Blessing, a sports writer and uncle of two team members, serves on the board of the Artistic Civic Theater. He has been volunteering as an "acting coach" for several years, helping students to develop their characters as witnesses. Attorneys Sarah Morris and Geoff Bard are also community mentors.

The team also receives scholarship money from the Dalton Education Foundation to help fund members who attend Law Academy in the fall for the past two years.

Several students won Outstanding awards at the regional competition. Each outstanding attorney and witness is scored by points; attorneys are judged by their arguments, objections, presentation, etc., and witnesses by the believability of their characters (how true they are to the statements), their ability to present their side of the story, and their ability to hold their own when cross examined by the opposing counsel.

Round 1 Awards:

Georgia Bronson, Outstanding Attorney

Jessica Jaconetti, Outstanding Attorney

Sarah Jaconetti, Outstanding Witness

Round 2 Awards:

Georgia Bronson, Outstanding Attorney

Jessica Jaconetti, Outstanding Attorney

Priya Khote, Outstanding Witness

Austin Rogers, Outstanding Witness

Round 3 Awards:

Georgia Bronson, Outstanding Attorney

Barry wishes more students and parents could see the benefits of mock trial. "The skills they attain are immeasurable, especially in their grasp of the legal system," she said. "Most importantly, I believe the students become more confident in their own abilities to speak and to persuade. They are all outstanding in my eyes."