Mock Trial makes history, heads to LA for states

Photo courtesy of HHS Mock Trial
HHS Mock Trial became county champions after defeating CHS in the county finals.

Mock Trial made history on Feb. 25 after defeating CHS to become county champions.

For the first time in Mock Trial history, the team made it to the Santa Clara County finals held in the Old Courthouse in San Jose and won, defense attorney and senior Katie Rizkalla said.  

“We have really blown it out of the water this year,” Rizkalla said.

Mock Trial is an extracurricular activity in which members perform in simulated trials. Each school sends either a prosecution or defense team, and the two teams engage in a trial to determine the results, according to the Mock Trial website.

It was such an elated moment, but we couldn’t scream out loud because the losing team was obviously right there. So we all yelled really loud for a second and then we were like, ‘Oh, you need to calm down.” Afterward, the team laughed and we went outside to take pictures and talk about it. Everyone was so excited [and] people couldn’t stop jumping up and down.

— Haritha Muthukumar (11)

This year’s court case is about a murder called “Matsumoto vs. the People,” Rizkalla said.  

The county finals had a different atmosphere than normal competitions, prosecution attorney and junior Haritha Muthukumar said. 

“Since it was the finals, there was a full jury of 14 attorneys … three times as many as there usually is,” Muthukumar said. “And a real judge was presiding over the case … It was a very intimidating atmosphere.”

Rizkalla said even the location of the final competition was different.

“Normally, we’re in the standard Superior Court, which is more modern-looking,” Rizkalla said. “But for the semifinals, they put us in a historical courtroom, [which is a] fancy building with these pretty columns.”

After two and a half hours of each side arguing their points, the judges conferred to determine the winner. Both teams received feedback from the attorneys on areas they could improve upon. Then the verdict of “not guilty” was announced, which meant HHS defense had won the case, Muthukumar said.

It feels like the perfect ending. But it’s not over yet–we still have to win state [finals]. But I’m very happy [because] last night just made my whole senior year.

— Katie Rizkalla (12)

“We were very strong, but nevertheless it was a very close match,” Rizkalla said. “CHS is a very good school and they did really well, but I guess we edged them out.”

Muthukumar said she was elated the team won the case.

“I was very nervous about it leading up to the moment,” Muthukumar said. “Once they announced it, my heart came up all the way to my throat.”  

Senior Roma Bedekar, who played the role of defendant, said she was shocked when she found out they had won. 

“The moment that they said [HHS won], I actually thought they were joking; I didn’t have any words,” she said, “ I heard everyone scream around me and that’s when it finally became reality.”

The next step for the Mock Trial team is state finals, which will take place in Los Angeles from Mar. 20-22. The team will compete in four back-to-back trials to determine how they place in the state, Rizkalla said. 

“It’s insane how I’ve seen the team grow from struggling to [making] quarterfinals to now [becoming] county champions,” Bedekar said. “To be able to leave that legacy as a senior is incredible.”