GARNER — Teams from two North Iowa high schools are set to compete in the Iowa State Bar Association’s High School Mock Trial Tournament in Des Moines.
This year, students from Garner-Hayfield-Ventura and Hampton-Dumont will take part in the 32-team competition March 28 to 30.
Each school will face off on opposing sides of the mock court in a multi-round competition.
Teams prepare for weeks in advance on the single case given for both the regional and state competition, learning simplified case law, trial exhibits and witness statements.
“It’s a ton of work, so they have to love it,” GHV teacher Debra Hill said. “It’s kinda like they are shouting words at each other. It’s applying law to stories.”
Two lawyers are helping advise the team on how to cross-examine witnesses and how to pick out hearsay during mock court proceedings.
“Don’t volunteer (information), just answer the question — that’s the hardest thing for anyone to learn,” said attorney Phil Garland.
The criminal case under consideration: State of Iowa v. Robin Wayne.
According to mock court documents, Gotham Detective Robin Wayne is charged with first-degree murder, accused of killing Ozzie Cobblepot in an alley behind a local bar.
The documents state Wayne stopped Cobblepot, an alleged drug dealer and career criminal, from robbing a bank the previous day.
“We’ve never had this cartoonish a case,” Hill said.
“This case probably has been the best case I’ve ever done, just because it is a murder case,” said GHV junior Parker Schnieders, 17.
He will be given the defense attorney’s opening statement, cross-examine a witness and will also portray a witness for the prosecution.
The mock trial process, he said, is an opportunity for students to pick apart holes in cases while learning the gray areas of how the legal system operates.
“It’s really not a clear victory for either side,” Schnieders said.
He said no murder weapon was found and the alley may have been too dark for the witness, the victim’s cousin, to accurately identify Wayne as the perpetrator.
As part of the defense, it was compelling to work on behalf of a man “who’s fighting for their life,” Schnieders said.
“We actually get to fight for an imaginary person that’s fighting for their freedom.”