Texas Regional High School Mock Trial Competition

Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School winners of the Mock Trial Competition

The Jefferson County Young Lawyer’s Association hosted the 36th annual Texas High School Mock Trial Competition on Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Jefferson County Courthouse. After two rounds, the top two teams competed in a final trial to see who would be going to state.

Five area high schools participated in the competition this year – West Brook, Central, Kelly, Vidor and Memorial. The stated purpose of the competition is to teach high school students about the law and its role in society as well as to encourage students to pursue a career in the legal field.

Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School towered above the rest in this year’s annual competition and remains the undefeated champions of the region since at least 2009.

Returning winners Thomas Waddill and Aman Panjwani will be traveling again to Dallas, this time with team members Bailey Braneff, Nicholas Shanning, Jeffrey Penning, Kyle McDaniel, Munir Pavez, Max Medina, Shanil Jasani and Chinye Nwaobi.

Coaches for the Kelly team include Aaron Kelley, faculty advisor; Honorable Zack Hawthorn, U.S. magistrate; Honorable Marsha Crone, U.S. district judge; Honorable Ron Clark, U.S. district judge; Mark Sparks, attorney; Ryan Gertz, attorney; and Joanna Clark, drama coach.

This year’s case was presented as The State of Texoma Vs. Lang Tigris. Tigris had been charged by information with the criminal offense of the manslaughter of Cervus Corona, his business partner. The competition trial involved evidence taken from the scene of the crime, witness testimony, and the examination of the defendant.

The Honorable Kent Walston, along with a couple of local attorneys, judged the teams based on their opening and closing statements, direct and cross examination, witness performances, and overall case presentation. Attorney Greg Dykeman with Strong, Pipkin, Bissell & Ledyard acted as the mock trial’s presiding judge for the final round.

Kelly High School argued that defendant Lang Tigris acted in self-defense in the death of business partner Cervus Corona, while the opposing team tried to portray monetary gain in the form of an insurance policy as motive for manslaughter.

The Texas High School Mock Trial Competition Program provides a way for students to gain an “insider’s view” of the judicial system, plus they gain confidence speaking in front of others and have a lot of fun at the same time, according to the program’s website. The competition is open to all high school students, whether they attend public or private schools or are home schooled.

“We do the regional competition here for all the area schools, and then the winner of Saturday’s competition, the Young Lawyers Association, pays for the state competition for them in Dallas,” said Bonnie Dean, the executive director of Jefferson County’s Bar Association. “We would like to encourage more schools to participate next year, so that way we can possibly send two teams to compete from our region.”

The Jefferson County Young Lawyers Association awarded several scholarships to the winners of the weekend’s competition including a $500 scholarship to Thomas Waddill of Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School for Best Advocate, and a $300 scholarship to Alexandria Adams of West Brook High School. The students will be presented their awards at the Jefferson County Bar Association Annual Law Day ceremony on May 1 at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

The winning Kelly team will compete in the state competition in Dallas on March 5. If the team ranks among the top three, they will represent Texas at the national competition in Raleigh, North Carolina. Jefferson County Young Lawyer’s Association awards a $2,500 scholarship to the winning team to assist them with travel to state competition.