Mock Trial and Academic Decathlon

April 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

We leave for Holy Week and Easter break with the celebratory banquet for Mock Trial and Academic Decathlon participants on Thursday, March 29, 2012.

The Mock Trial Competition is sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation. According to its website <> the program was created “to help students acquire a working knowledge of [the] judicial system, develop analytical abilities and communication skills, and gain an understanding of their obligations and responsibilities as participating members of … society.” Each team receives “summaries of case law, witness statements, [and] official exhibits,” which they present at trial using “simplified rules of evidence.” Middle schools and high schools from 36 California counties compete each year.

Mr. Ryan addresses his audience. Photo by David Guerra

The cases are hypothetical, but based on topics of current interest complicated by Constitutional questions. Robert Ryan [See Purple Letter of March 29, 2010], the teacher-sponsor for Cathedral’s Mock Trial team, explained that “the case is unique to each year, and all schools try the same case.” This year the case was called People v. Buschell. Mr. Ryan  summarized the case: “Ryan Buschell was accused of murdering his friend Becca because she was going to turn him in for plagiarism and ruin his chances at inheriting millions of dollars worth of trust fund.”

The tournament, which took place last November at the Courthouse downtown, requires that each team prepare both prosecution and defense. Like over 8000 students across the state, Cathedral’s Mock Trial team worked with Mr. Ryan as their teacher-sponsor and an attorney-coach from the Los Angeles community to learn how to analyze, prepare, and present their case. They presented the prosecution’s case one week and the defense’s case the other.

The process begins with a pre-trial motion (presented by senior Cristian Alegria) that concerned the Second Amendment and “whether an individual has a Constitutional right to carry a concealed weapon.” Mr. Ryan was pleased to note that “as the prosecution, we won the motion, and the charge was allowed to stand.” However, as the defense, he confessed, “we lost [the motion], with the same result.”

Student attorneys (for both the defense and the prosecution) were Abraham Beltran, Jaycee Barajas, Michael Mora, and Anthony Cardinal, who received Honorable Mention for his work from the sponsor, the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

The witnesses were played by Cameron Payne, Jose Mares-Martinez, Yohanes Shimelis, Richard Kim, Benjamin Lopez, Rosario Leyva, Herbert Benitez, and Ivan Palomera. The court bailiff was played by Julio Priego, and the clerk/timekeeper was Fernando Reyes.

The team “won the verdict in both trials,” observed Mr. Ryan. As prosecutors, they convicted the defendant, and as defenders, they won his acquittal. If you are interested in being part of this challenging activity, see Mr. Ryan.

Mrs. Staveley & the 2012 Academic Decathlon Team. Photo by David Guerra.

Cathedral’s Academic Decathlon team celebrated their worthy accomplishments as well. Like the Mock Trial Competition, these decathletes prepare all year for a two-day competition. Each year the focus is a different historical era, and students undergo rigorous testing on two consecutive Saturdays. The three subjective events – the interview, the speeches (one memorized, one impromptu), and the timed writing (essay) – were tested first, on January 28. On the following Saturday, February 4, students faced a grueling series of Scantron tests in each of seven subject areas: literature & language, music, science, art, mathematics, economics, and social science. Four tests are administered before lunch and three more afterwards, including the written and oral Super Quiz. Each year since 2008 the teams have brought home more medals than the year before. In 2011 [see Purple Letter of February 14, 2011] the total was 34, up from 21 in 2010. With the redoubtable Mrs. Staveley [see Purple Letter of November 17, 2008] as their coach and moderator, two teams again competed in Division 2 and Division 3 at the Regional Private School Decathlon Competition at Bishop Alemany High School in Granada Hills.

Team One, consisting of Tom Bebing, Matias Farfan, David Guerra, Steve Lee, Emmanuel Licup, Edgar Maldonado, Earl John Reyes, Yohanes Shimelis, and Ian Tadeo, received a beautiful plaque for winning Team Gold in their division of the Oral  Super Quiz. Each young man received a gold medal for this accomplishment. In addition, Matias Farfan won a bronze medal in mathematics; David Guerra a bronze in language & literature, and Steve Lee a bronze in music. Edgar Maldonado won a gold medal in the interview, and Yohanes Shimelis took gold in economics. However, junior Ian Tadeo won an astonishing six medals! Besides the team gold for the Super Quiz, Ian also won the following individual medals: gold in art, silver in the Super Quiz, and bronze in science, economics, and decathlon. Counting nine golds for the team Super Quiz, Team One brought home eighteen medals!

Team Two did its part as well; every member of the team brought home at least one individual medal. John Severino took gold in the interview; Armando Freire won silver in science; Johnathan Llamas won bronze in music; Andrew Lucero and Diego Vera both took bronze in science.

With multiple medals, Matthew Nuesca brought home bronze in both music and mathematics, while Jonathan Pagador took bronze in science and gold in both art and economics. Bringing home four medals each were junior George Bebing (silver in science, and bronze in interview, music, and Super Quiz) and senior Anthony Javier (silver in interview, bronze in essay, language & literature, and Super Quiz). Total for Team Two: eighteen medals!

Total medal count for 2012: 36! Cathedral continues its impressive rate of acquisition. The subject of next year’s competition, Russia, was announced at the banquet. An important qualification for Academic Decathlon is grade point average (GPA). Each team of nine must have 3 “A” students, 3 “B” students, and 3 “C” students. If you are interested you can talk to either Mrs. Staveley or a team member. Be sure to stop by the senior building to view the team bulletin board. If you like a challenge, like learning new things, and are not afraid of commitment, consider becoming a member of the Academic Decathlon or the Mock Trial team (or both, like Yohanes Shimelis).


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