Mock Trial teams compete in first virtual competition

Both teams ranked in the top eight within Ventura County


Emily Francis

Screen shot taken of the 2020-21 OPHS Mock Trial defense team

The first-ever virtual competition for Oak Park High School’s Mock Trial teams took place from Feb. 18-25. Roughly 26 teams gathered on Zoom in replacement of a session in court, creating a much different environment for all members.

“I think it’s harder to focus on a screen and really be involved in the trial like we normally are,” junior and black team member Olivia Dods wrote to the Talon. “In-person we can see everyone in the courtroom and the atmosphere is much more motivating but online, it feels very isolated and tiring.”

There were four mandatory days of trial, of which both the prosecution and defense teams had to compete for two days. From there, the top eight teams moved on to additional days of competition. The first day was originally set for Feb. 24, but an internet outage on Feb. 22 pushed the trial back one day.

The prosecution for the black team was presenting their second direct when the internet outage occurred and many students saw their screens freeze. 

“At first, I wasn’t too worried, I was acting as a substitute that day so it wasn’t a big deal if I had to leave. But then all of a sudden I got a text from my co-captain, Prinaka, who started freaking out because her screen also froze,” senior and co-captain of the Mock Trial team Prerana Rao wrote to the Talon. 

Senior and co-captain Prinaka Drona is an attorney for the black team and frantically texted her back-up when her wifi went down. It wasn’t until she started getting texts from her Mock Trial group chat that she realized she wasn’t the only one.

“I ended up hot spotting my phone to try and join the zoom again but the competition just ended up being canceled for that day,” Drona wrote to the Talon.

Mock Trial members spent a full semester and the time before the February competition preparing and within the span of seconds, their work was delayed.

“The reason why it was frustrating was that it happened in our third round,” Rao wrote. “However, we just shifted the entire thing by one more day, so the third round continued on Tuesday rather than being finished on Monday. It didn’t impact our team much though because we ended up still going against the same team we had initially been paired against, and we got both of our teams to place top 8 in the county.” 

Despite the technical problems that can accompany virtual trials, the general rules and protocols remained the same.

“The dress code, as usual, is to wear courtroom attire, and we also had to have a plain background,” Dods wrote. “In the virtual format… we only turned our cameras on when we were speaking, and for the remainder of the trial we were muted and off-camera. This is much different than in normal competition, where we are competing in a real courtroom in person.”

Oak Park has two Mock Trial teams, the black team, and the gold team. For the first time, both Oak Park teams ranked in the top eight within Ventura County, with the black team placing fourth and the gold team placing eighth.

“I think it was amazing that we could get so far and make Oak Park history in such trying times especially with a whole new wave of underclassman coming in,” junior and gold team member Kashish Rai wrote to the Talon, “I felt really proud of both of our team, and it was unreal to see all the effort that we put in reflect back on us after the competition.”