City High Mock Trials Prepares for Regionals

Julianne Berry-Stoelzle, Sports Editor

Stolen paintings that turned up from a famous museum robbery that took place years ago. A reporter with a strange obsession with this robbery, who is also set on winning the Pulitzer Prize at all costs, including altering the story itself. A bar owner who guarded the museum the night of the robbery, finally admitting his true suspicions of what happened and why he didn’t talk earlier. This and more is included in this year’s mock trial case, The State of Iowa v. Taylor Gates, released by the Iowa State Bar Association this December.

The defendant is Taylor Gates, charged with possession of stolen property. The property is the famous stolen paintings by the Artist Known as Ron. In order for her to be found guilty, it must be proven that she was not going to return the painting to the museum.

“The defendant claims that it was their intent to turn [the paintings] over, but they didn’t right away,” Chip Hardesty, one of the City mock trial coach, said. “It’s a question of intent really, and how to prove intent.”

There is a new case every year, and this year’s case differs from others in that it is less complicated than past years, with the prosecution only bringing one charge against the defendant.

“It’s a fairly simple case as far as lawyers and objections,” Hardesty said. “I think the most important part of this year’s case will be the witnesses, and how well they act.”

Ananya Albrecht-Buehler ‘21 is playing Riley Chase, the art historian who notified the police after being contacted to authenticate the paintings. She plans on using an English accent for her witness and playing up the poshness of her character.

“Last year I had some problems [with] just having a character. It seemed to be too much just me talking,” Albrecht-Buehler said. “This year I want to focus on being a witness and not just being myself saying lines.”

Mock Trial is based on a point system, where each speech or session of questioning is scored out of 10 points. There are at least two judges scoring each round, with one head judge conducting the trial.

 “The balance of not completely throwing your case away and just trying to be personable, but also not completely focusing on the case and making some stupid arguments [is important],” Albrecht-Buehler said.

The City High mock trial participants were divided into four teams based on various factors including grade, experience, and team chemistry. Daphne Knoop ‘20 has the role of Taylor Gates on the senior mock trial team. 

“I love my team,” Knoop said. “I am on the same team as last year and I think we have a really good vibe. Our team is really goofy. Every practice is fun, but we do serious work at the same time. For us, doing serious work can be fun, which makes mock trial fun.” 

Preparation for a competition involves writing out opening and closing speeches, practicing both direct and cross examinations, and becoming comfortable with the procedures of the courtroom.

“Mock trial is a great activity because it combines a lot of different things,” Knoop said. “You get to act, write, and work your way around logic problems. It is a lot of fun.”

Hardesty has high hopes for the session, expecting at least two of the four teams to qualify for state at the regional competitions coming up in early March. 

“We’ve had really outstanding people [in the past], and we do this year too,” Hardesty said. “It only gets better every year.”