Los Altos High School students participating in the county Mock Trial program reached the semifinals when they were defeated March 5 by Leland High School of San Jose.
"The community should know there are some great kids doing wonderful and creative things in these trials," said Robin Wakshull, a Santa Clara County deputy district attorney who volunteers with the program. "It's a great opportunity for the kids to experience the justice system and learn what laws can do."
Mock Trails are a county-wide competition of high school student teams representing both prosecution and defense positions of a criminal case.
Eight teams of high school students with more than 100 attorneys and 55 judges participated in the March 4 quarterfinals. Four teams including Los Altos High School, advanced to the semifinals March 5.
Two San Jose high schools, Leland and Lincoln, advanced to the finals held last Thursday night.
Los Altos High School has participated in the Mock Trial competition for the past 12 years, and it has always reached the quarter- or semifinals.
In 1996, Los Altos was defeated by Palo Alto High School in the quarterfinals. Palo Alto High then went on to win the county finals and represent Santa Clara County in Sacramento and finished in the state quarterfinals.
"It takes a lot of hours and a long time, but at the conclusion, the kids were pleased with themselves," said Howard Dienger, Los Altos High School faculty advisor. "We have always been in the top third. Never the champ, but always good."
Each high school team has a prosecution and a defense team. Each team consists of a pretrial motion attorney, three direct and cross examination attorneys, four witnesses, and a court clerk (timer) or bailiff.
Schools are pitted against each other, such as Los Altos defense may be matched with Palo Alto prosecution. In the following round, Los Altos prosecution would compete against another school's defense.
The competition trials are held in Superior Court in San Jose with a judge from the court volunteering his/her time for the 2 1/2-hour trial.
The Los Altos team was coached by two practicing attorneys, Harry Price and Bill Bassett, current and former Los Altos High School parents.
Members of the Los Altos High School team include: Susie Ahlport, Cami Allen, David Brunner, Kirstin Chantalat, Jonathon Chang, Michael Chen, Helen Chiang, Jinyoung Choi, Neil Dave, Chris Erickson, Kassie Hughes, Alan Kim, Melissa Koh, Tim Sato, Kevin Wang, Emily Wildanger and Joanne Zhong.