A group of Bend High School Mock Trial Club students learned recently that sometimes it's OK to jab your fellow classmates.
In fact, students were encouraged to attack quickly and viciously.
“Make your point and get out of there,” local attorney Brendon Alexander said, addressing a group of 10 students. “Don't give the witness a chance to explain. Just jab until it bleeds, then let the prosecution clean up the blood.”
Mock Trial Club practice sessions are rarely boring. While the club has been established for many years at other Central Oregon high schools, a local attorney made it her mission to start the club in 2010 for Bend High students interested in law.
Family law attorney Lillian Quinn became interested in setting up a club once her daughter started at Bend High and found out the school didn't have a club.
“It's a place where students can fit in,” Quinn said. “It's something for students who might not be jocks but might have other talents. They can come in here and be part of a group.”
Prior to becoming a lawyer, Quinn taught high school English. Despite changing careers, she says she's always loved teaching. That passion inspired her to volunteer this year to teach Bend High's first Mock Trial law class in the fall. Bend High now has 30 students in the club who will compete at the district competition Saturday at the Deschutes County courthouse.
The Bend High teams were busy Feb. 20 preparing for the trial, using a hypothetical case the students have been studying since November.
The case, which is the same for all mock trial students in the district, centers on a college student charged with second-degree manslaughter and hazing after a student in her honors society dies accidentally during a pledge event.
As students from the Gold Team practiced playing the parts of witnesses and lawyers for the prosecution and defense, Alexander acted as judge and mentor, offering students insight from his years in the courtroom.
“Don't repeat what the witness says,” Alexander offered to a student who was cross-examining a witness. “And keep the questions short. Juries hate long questions.”
“It's great because he's teaching us proper court decorum,” said Bailey Arritola, 16, a student playing a defense attorney on the Gold Team. “It's very helpful to know what to expect.”
Bailey joined Mock Trial Club because she says she wants to one day become an FBI agent. She says that the club has helped her understand how the court system works, and given her a good starting point for her future in law enforcement.
“It's definitely a collaborative effort,” Megan Quinn, Lillian Quinn's daughter, said. “It's helped me better approach working with people and team work.”
Megan is captain of Bend High's mock trial program, and says that with her mom advising the club, Mock Trial has almost become an obsession for her family.
“It's pretty much mock trial all the time at our house,” Megan said. “When my mom asks me to do dishes, I throw in an objection.”