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OC high schools go to court in mock trial finals

After a promising young actress completes her final performance of the Shakespeare-adaption “Macbeth at Sea” on a cruise ship, she finds herself accused of assaulting a fellow actor and of stealing a ring said to have been owned by William Shakespeare.

Authorities arrested Jordan Franks and charged her with robbery and battery.

That’s the outline of the fictional case of People vs. Franks, part of the annual Orange County Mock Trial Competition hosted by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. This year’s finalists were the Orange County School of the Arts and El Dorado High School, and they went to trail this week at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana to decide which team would represent the county in the upcoming state completion.

The nonprofit Constitutional Rights Foundation has sponsored high school mock trials in Orange County since 1981.  Working under the guidance of volunteer attorney coaches and teachers, the student teams face off as either the prosecution or the defense, preparing for a realistic courtroom case and presenting before a judge in real courtrooms.

Approximately 900 Orange County students participated in this year’s competitions.

Advancing through the rounds since November, the teams from El Dorado and OCSA reached the final trial before retired Judge Nancy Zeltzer. El Dorado represented the defense and OCSA the prosecution.

Each team presented their pretrial motions, opening statements, evidence and questioned seven witnesses and then made their closing statements. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer was among the volunteers scoring the final competition.

When the moment of truth came, Judge Zeltzer read the jury’s decision from a slip of paper, announcing the Orange County School of the Arts will be representing the county in March’s state trials.

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