Students from Lordstown, LaBrae and Newton Falls participated in mock trials.
By AMANDA GARRETT
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Attorneys frantically whispered to one another.
Witnesses fidgeted on the stand, and the courtroom was packed with curious spectators.
The legal wrangling in Courtroom B of the Trumbull County Family Court Center had all the trappings of a real case.
In fact, the attorneys, witnesses and even the bailiff were being portrayed by Lordstown High School students as part of the 2007 Ohio High School Mock Trial Competition of Ohio Center for Law-Related Education.
For a hypothetical case about eminent domain, two students played attorneys for the defendant -- in this case the fictional city of Strawberry Hills, which would like to put a baseball stadium in the rundown part of town.
Two students played attorneys for the plaintiffs -- homeowners who wanted to keep their property from being taken by the city through eminent domain.
The seniors also played all of the case witnesses, including a developer, city councilman and homeowner.
A three-judge panel oversaw the case and critiqued the participants at the end of the trial.
Social studies teacher Terry Armstrong said he was pleased and proud of his students, who dedicated many hours to preparing for the trial.
"We prepared for three or four hours every school day for about a month and a half," he said. "These students were so dedicated they even came in on snow days."
All of the practice paid off when the judges praised their professionalism and knowledge after the trial, said Richard Cooke, who played the bailiff.
"We worked together so much we became like a well-oiled machine," he said.
Kayla Fenstermaker, who played a witness, said she has a new appreciation for the legal profession after participating in the competition.
"At first, I was disappointed that we didn't get a murder trial or something more exciting," she said. "But when you looked at all the information and learned about eminent domain, it was really interesting."
Students from LaBrae and Newton Falls high schools also participated in their own mock trials as part of the competition.
Teams who earn enough points will move on to the regional finals Feb. 23 and could eventually end up competing at the state finals March 8-10 in Columbus.
Richard Darbey of Lordstown, who played an attorney for the defendant, said he is enjoying the experience, but he doesn't plan on pursuing a law practice.
"I've got a life, and I'd like to get back to it," he said. "I'm going to owe my girlfriend a lot of time after this is over."