On Friday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 11, the fluorescent lighting of the courtroom shone brightly on the truth regarding the death of well-known pop artist Rojet Noslen, or Pauper.
The Mock Trial team, coached by Frank Turner and Luisa Del Villar, went to court after months of preparation to argue the case of defendant Houston Whit's guilt or innocence against 13 other schools in the El Paso area at the 2017 Texas High School Mock Trial Competition. Assigned as prosecution for the first, third, and fourth trials, and as defense for the second, the team had to switch gears and argue both sides of the case. The team is composed of four attorneys and six witnesses that alternate depending on whether the trial is prosecution or defense.
In the first trial, Senior Michele DeRouen provided the jury with an opening statement that served to convince them of the guilt of Houston Whit, who was played by a student from Mission Valley Early College High School. She was then able to discredit the defendant on the stand, resulting in a win for Trooper Mock Trial.
The second trial was opened by junior Ryan James Solis, and closed by DeRouen. During cross examination, senior Adrian Torres shed doubt on the innocence of a witness, and closed his line of questioning with an unexpected sidebar: "Thank you, for incriminating yourself." The team won this trial against El Paso High School.
DeRouen opened for both the third and fourth trials. During cross examination in each round, she was able to get the defendant to confess that they were at the victim's house the day that the murder occurred. Torres provided the closing argument for both of these trials. Mock trial lost the third round by one point to Americas High School, and the fourth to Cathedral High School.
Coach Del Villar said that the team has taken the results of the competition in stride.
"I'm surprised how well they've taken the outcome of the competition," Del Villar said. "They've been in such high spirits and I think it shows their maturity level and that makes me really proud. We're obviously not happy about the outcome, but just the way they've taken it is amazing to me."
Del Villar said that the team has become extremely close over the course of this year.
"I think they've grown immensely," Del Villar said. "Just seeing them interact yesterday, I think their bond has grown so much, they're best friends now. Just seeing them interact speaks volumes."
Sophomore witness Briana Bustos said that the team has done well together, and that she was proud to have competed.
"It was a great experience," Bustos said. "I really feel like as a group we all worked together. As a team we did amazing and I love all of the people on the team."
The team has four attorneys that mentor them for the competitions. Assistant District Attorney Scott Ferguson, who has worked with the team for over a decade, said that coaching the team has been a learning experience for him.
"These are very smart students," Ferguson said. "It's always nice working with kids. You learn by teaching. When somebody asks you a question that a regular lawyer would never think of, you have to justify yourself and you think about why things are the way they are."
DeRouen said that she is honored to have worked with such a dedicated team, and that the scores mean little next to everything they have learned together.
"I'm incredibly proud of everything that we've accomplished and I'm very lucky to have been a leader of such a great group of people," DeRouen said. "It think that we gave it our all. This is the best team we've ever had, and I don't think the outcome is as important as what we've learned. We've grown so close that no win or loss can matter in light of that."
While the team did not advance to semi-finals, they maintain hope that they'll be able to do so next year.