DP Mock narrowly edged in final; takes 2nd place in state

In a tense, hard-fought championship round La Reina High School’s mock trial defense team narrowly edged out the Dos Pueblos prosecution team to capture first place Sunday in the 31st California Mock Trial finals held in Sacramento.

It was the second straight California title for La Reina which advances to the National Mock Trial Championship in Albuquerque.

The Chargers were hoping to capture the school’s third state title and first since 1987.

Prosecution attorney Paisha Fellows hugs defense witness Nimisha Shinday as bailiff Camille Wyss looks on after the Chargers learned the results of the final round. (Photo courtesy of Niranjanna Jeeva).

The 140 spectators who packed the Sacramento Federal Courthouse for the final round witnessed a dramatic and hard-fought final presided over by U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb.

For members of the Dos Pueblos Mock trial team, earning a place against the defending champions in the coveted final round is a source of pride.

“It was an honor to face a team of La Reina’s caliber in the state final,” said DP defense witness Ryan Polito. “We congratulate our friends from Ventura County and wish them the best at nationals.”

“I could not have asked for a better end to this season and my high school mock trial career,” said team captain and prosecution pretrial attorney Connie Wang.

Pretrial attorney Connie Wang delivers her argument to U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb during the final round as clerk Ami Thakrar counts down her time. (Niranjanna Jeeva / Photo)

“If at the very beginning of this year, someone had told me that our team would be competing in the state finals, that our team would be one of the top two teams in the entire state of California, I would not have believed them for a second.”

The Chargers advanced to the final round with four victories in the 32-team tournament. On Friday night, the Dos Pueblos Prosecution team defeated Oakmont High School from Placer County.

The baton was passed on Saturday to the DP defense team, led by captain Cheryl Wilson, who were selected for each of the three trials.

Lead defense attorney Cheryl Wilson delivers her closing argument in Saturday’s semifinal round. (Niranjanna Jeeva / Photo)

In the morning round, the Chargers defeated Tulare Union High School (Tulare County).

The Chargers then earned victories over Riverside Poly High School (Riverside County) and Woodbridge High (Orange County) in the afternoon to advance to the championship round.

For Wilson, who has been a four-year starting attorney and was participating at the California finals for the fourth straight year, the announcement that the Chargers had advanced to the final round was “surreal.”

“For the past four years, I’ve waited for the Saturday night announcement of the teams proceeding to the final round.  It was the culmination of all the hours of hard work, patience, and dedication, and was a moment we will never forget.”

The teams argued the fictional case of People vs. Buschell in which the defendant is charged with the second degree murder of Becca Ables, a childhood friend of Buschell’s who had threatened to get the defendant expelled from college and thus deny the defendant a 20 million dollar trust. The victim is found dead of a stab wound at a Coachella-like music festival.

The team poses with U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb who presided over Sunday’s final round. (Photo courtesy of Niranjanna Jeeva)

“This is a case, about a cheater, who became a killer,” argued DP prosecution attorney Alison Mally in the final round.

For defense pretrial attorney Jake Wiener, the disappointment of coming within a few points of the state title was negated by the team’s performance during the tournament.

“This weekend showcased Dos Pueblos’s Mock Trial team at its best,” said Wiener. “From stunning individual performances to seamless teamwork, we earned our place in the finals.

“The prosecution presented a case as elegant as the courthouse they performed in, and the defense fought through three difficult trials to bring the team to finals. I could not be more proud of my team members, nor of the way in which the team performed as a whole.”

DP’s Yibing Zhang also took home the third place medal in the courtroom artist competition.

The California Mock Trial Finals are organized by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

The Dos Pueblos Mock Trial team:

Prosecution Pretrial Attorney: Connie Wang
Prosecution Attorneys: Paisha Fellows, Alison Mally, Madeleine Centrella (understudy: Sean Strong)
Prosecution Witnesses: Emma Steinkellner, Nadine Pearson (playing Devin Lin), Hannah Cruz (playing Kai Mauer), Agnetta Cleland, Sophia Zheng (playing Dr. Marion Schwartz), Wes Cooperman (playing Detective Kennedy Shephard).
clerk: Ami Thakrar

Defense Pretrial Attorney: Jake Wiener (understudies: Delia Bullock, Niranjanna Jeeva)
Defense Attorneys: Cheryl Wilson, Madeline Matthys (understudy: Bela Lafferty)
Defense Witnesses: Ray Cothern (playing Ryan Buschell), Nimisha Shinday (playing Sasha Fain), Brian Pinner (playing Dr. Jan Shartsis, AG Prout (played by Ryan Polito).
Bailiff: Camille Wyss

Attorney Coaches: Joel Block, Scott Campbell, Maureen Grattan

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2012 SB County Champs!!!

After six months of practice, eight trials, and another classic showdown with their arch rivals, the Dos Pueblos High School Mock Trial team heard the verdict they had been hoping to hear all year as they were crowned Santa Barbara County champions Saturday afternoon after defeating San Marcos in the final round of the Santa Barbara County Mock Trial tournament.

The standing-room-only crowds which packed Departments 1 and 2 on Saturday afternoon were treated to another nail-biting final round between the two schools. Last year, the final round ended in a tie and both schools were named co-champions.

It was the fourth straight county championship for the Chargers, who earned a coveted spot in the California Mock Trial championships to be held March 23-25 in Sacramento.

Senior prosecution trial attorney Paisha Fellows demonstrates how the victim was killed during her closing statement as her as prosecution attorneys Madeleine Centrella (left) and Alison Mally (right) look on. (Photo courtesy of Dos Pueblos Mock Trial)

This year’s finals didn’t disappoint as the Royals and Chargers exchanged arguments in what one of the attorney scorers described as “an epic heavyweight prize-fight.”

Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Donna Geck, who presided over one of the final trials agreed.

“I want to echo what the attorney scorers said in that each of these teams should be thankful for the other,” said Geck in addressing the court after the final round. “San Marcos wouldn’t be the team they are without Dos Pueblos, and Dos Pueblos wouldn’t be the team they are without San Marcos.”

For sophomore defense attorney Madeline Matthys, the finals were the culmination of months of hard work.

“Going into the final round was extremely nerve-racking because I couldn’t help thinking that this one final round would determine the outcome of six months of hard work,” said Matthys. “But as soon as I stepped into the courtroom and began the trial, all my nervousness faded away, and I realized that our team could not have been better prepared.”

“I think our whole team is ultimately grateful to San Marcos for being as talented a team as they are,” said prosecution pretrial attorney and team co-captain Connie Wang. “Our own team wouldn’t be where we are today if we weren’t constantly motivated by the knowledge that right across town, another mock trial team was spending long hours preparing for competition as well.

“It’s an intense and exciting experience to be able to compete in the finals against another top tier team. Although there is rivalry between our two teams, I think it’s a beneficial rivalry that just makes both of us that much better.”

Senior members of DP Mock pose with their first place trophy. (Photo courtesy of Cristina Wilson)

Senior lead prosecution attorney Paisha Fellows was thrilled with her entire team’s performance in the final round.

“I loved watching our team work as such a unit yesterday,” said Fellows. “There are individuals that stand out like our unbeatable pretrial attorney Connie Wang, but winning that trophy took the whole team–clerk, witnesses, understudies, and attorneys. That’s what sets our team apart.”

The teams argued the fictional case of People vs. Buschell in which the defendant is charged with the second degree murder of Becca Ables, a childhood friend of Buschell’s (played by Ray Cothern) who had threatened to get the defendant expelled from college and thus deny the defendant a 20 million dollar trust. The victim is found dead of a stab wound at a Coachella-like music festival.

Our own team wouldn’t be where we are today if we weren’t constantly motivated by the knowledge that right across town, another mock trial team was spending long hours preparing for competition as well. – Connie Wang

In Department 2, lead defense attorney Cheryl Wilson argued in closing that the evidence presented by the San Marcos Prosecution team did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Buschell was guilty of murder, in part because they could not definitively identify the murder weapon.

“Your honor, it’s not maybe, it’s not probably, it’s not even most likely” argued Wilson. “The prosecution’s burden was to prove that my client’s knife was indeed the weapon that killed Ms. Ables. And they have failed to do so.”

The Chargers now move on to the state tournament where they have finished in the top eight in each of the past two years.

But this year, Wilson says that her team will approach it differently.

“In past years, the state competition has just been an added bonus for our team,” said Wilson. “None of our team members had ever competed before, so we were essentially rookies. This year, we’re ready to bring home a state title, and take DP mock to nationals.”

The California Mock Trial Finals are organized by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

The Dos Pueblos Mock Trial team:

Prosecution Pretrial Attorney: Connie Wang
Prosecution Attorneys: Paisha Fellows, Alison Mally, Madeleine Centrella (understudy: Sean Strong)
Prosecution Witnesses: Emma Steinkellner, Nadine Pearson (playing Devin Lin), Hannah Cruz (playing Kai Mauer), Agnetta Cleland, Sophia Zheng (playing Dr. Marion Schwartz), Wes Cooperman (playing Detective Kennedy Shephard).
clerk: Ami Thakrar

Defense Pretrial Attorney: Jake Wiener (understudies: Delia Bullock, Niranjanna Jeeva)
Defense Attorneys: Cheryl Wilson, Madeline Matthys (understudy: Bela Lafferty)
Defense Witnesses: Ray Cothern (playing Ryan Buschell), Nimisha Shinday (playing Sasha Fain), Brian Pinner (playing Dr. Jan Shartsis, AG Prout (played by Ryan Polito).
Bailiff: Camille Wyss

Attorney Coaches: Joel Block, Scott Campbell, Maureen Grattan

Charger Spotlight: Cheryl Wilson

The first four-year starting trial attorney in school history, Cheryl Wilson will once again lead her team into the final round of the Santa Barbara County Mock Trial championships this Saturday.

(Haley Peterson / Photo)

By Kelly Nakashima | Staff Writer | February 29, 2012

While observing the high stakes murder case People v. Ryan Buschell, one would imagine that an atmosphere of hushed suspense blankets the courtroom.

In Department 10 of the Santa Barbara Superior Court, however, where Judge Susan McCollum oversees a formidable mock trial face-off between Laguna Blanca (prosecution) and Dos Pueblos (defense) as part of the Santa Barbara County preliminary trials, it is quite the contrary.

The spectators—a motley array of parents, siblings, relatives and coaches—creak uncomfortably in their chairs, crinkle gum wrappers, consult various electronic devices, and bat slips of paper against the airless humidity of the courtroom. A few are—somewhat less discreetly—napping with hands shading their eyes.

But when Dos Pueblos senior and mock trial lead defense attorney Cheryl Wilson stands up to begin her examination, the energy in the room visibly shifts from one of listless fatigue to one of tacit awe.

Though she approaches the jury box with flushed cheeks, a faint smile, and a brisk “Good afternoon,” any trace of camaraderie evaporates as she begins her cross-examination.

The prosecution witnesses in the front row are practically squirming.

If Cheryl’s presence in the courtroom alone evokes a special kind of awe, there’s plenty of evidence as to why.

Aside from being the first and only four-year starting attorney in DP mock trial history, Cheryl holds a perfect 14-0 record in the Santa Barbara County tournament, where she was named best defense attorney last year.

As a freshman, she handled the complex expert witness exams as DP broke San Marcos’ winning streak at the county tournament. The following year she joined her teammates in claiming fifth place at the state competition.

I loved arguing, [though] my parents and siblings probably did not enjoy it as much as I did, I can assure you…it was sort of the standard that I was going to become the attorney in the family.

Cheryl Wilson, defense attorney for the Dos Pueblos Mock Trial team, cross examines a witness during a tune-up for the Santa Barbara County Prelims. This Saturday, she leads her team into the semifinal round vs. Santa Ynez. (Photo courtesy of Dos Pueblos Mock Trial)

According to Cheryl, her success on the mock trial team has been a long time coming.

She attributes her love affair with the law to her first case in elementary school: the trial of Hansel and Gretel.

“I loved arguing,” she admits, “[though] my parents and siblings probably did not enjoy it as much as I did, I can assure you…it was sort of the standard that I was going to become the attorney in the family.”

Apparently all that arguing paid off.

By the time Cheryl entered high school, she had earned a spot as the only freshman in mock trial’s starting attorney lineup.

Her coach, English teacher Bill Woodard, recalls her impressive audition in which she declared her dream to one day argue a case in front of the Supreme Court.

“She was just a tiny thing,” Woodard says, “but even then had a natural confidence and likeability—two qualities so important to mock trial.”

Still, Cheryl acknowledges that she may have had less confidence than she appeared to, despite working with two senior attorneys, who showed her the ropes of case analysis and courtroom conduct.

“I had absolutely no idea what I was doing,” she says, “but I still had to pretend like I did to try to prove myself and not let my team down.”

Her team, of which she is co-captain with seniors Connie Wang and Emma Steinkellner, clearly admires Cheryl’s leadership, not only praising her as a constant source of encouragement, but as a stronghold of determination and the epitome of poise under pressure.

During Cheryl’s sophomore year, Woodard recalls, pressure reached a boiling point when the team changed its arguments immediately before the state tournament, requiring Cheryl to revamp her entire opening statement.

After spending six hours in a hotel room in San Jose, with just an hour left to practice, Cheryl delivered the statement flawlessly that evening, resulting in a victory that contributed to DP’s fifth place win at state that year.

Wilson (center), is DP’s first four-year starting trial attorney in the 30 years of the program.

“That’s the type of character she has always displayed,” Woodard observes. “She’s a fighter and a wonderful speaker.”

After serving this past summer as an intern with the Santa Barbara Superior Court, Cheryl now has her eyes set on Washington D.C., where she was accepted in the fall by Georgetown University to study Government and Political Science, an endeavor she hopes will precede law school.

Though she looks forward to claiming one last county title this coming weekend, Cheryl views her past successes as a humbling factor, not a license to brag.

“The one thing I’ve realized,” she says, “is just how little I knew coming into it.” She adds that although it’s much less stressful going into trial now than it was four years ago, it’s still impossible to know exactly what she’s going to face next. “[It’s] part of the reason why I love it.”

Back in the courtroom, Cheryl does seem to relish in the unexpected nature of trial. Yet she moves fluently from one point to the next, calmly but forcefully addressing all objections and moving on when they are overruled, just as she knew they would be.

Her fellow team captain and DP prosecution witness Emma Steinkellner echoes this sentiment when she remarks: “I don’t think I knew the true meaning of efficiency before I met Cheryl.”

Following the trial (ruled in favor of the defense), Cheryl will be once again warm and approachable, shaking hands with each member of the prosecution and thanking the judge.

But for now, she’s off to deliver six minutes of closing arguments, without notes, addressing the judge, the witnesses, and the prosecution attorneys, proving that beyond any reasonable doubt, Cheryl Wilson is a force to be reckoned with.