Mock trial team

The Joplin High School mock trial team will compete at the state level later this month. Courtesy |

Joplin Schools

Students on the Joplin High School mock trial team will compete in the 2023 Missouri State Championship later this month in Kansas City.

Team members are student attorneys Yvette Shackles, Asa Bodenhorn and Kate Tyson; and student witnesses Jayla Hunter, Sam Bowin, Cade Sinclair, Jackson Rhine, Jayden Camerer and Christian Cavener.

“High school mock trial is a unique early introduction to the American legal process in both civil and criminal contexts,” said Shawn DeGraff, JHS teacher and one of the team’s coaches. “It requires students to research, study and participate as lawyers and witnesses in a real-life laboratory judged by actual trial judges and lawyers. Several former Joplin students have gone on to become successful trial lawyers themselves after doing mock trial during their high school years.”

Students on the team start in August by researching and writing from a fact pattern, creating and practicing courtroom opening and closing statements, engaging in witness examination and cross-examinations, and admitting and objecting to proposed evidence in preparation for competition.

Students also learn how to use federal court rules of civil and criminal procedure and the federal rules of evidence during their preparation.

The team’s second coach is Justin Crawford, the district’s director of educational support and human resources.

Jasper County Circuit Court staff in Joplin, along with Court Administrator Erik Theis, presiding Judge Dean Dankelson and attorney Keegan Tinney, recently allowed the team to access one of the courtrooms in the new courts building in Joplin to prepare for competition. Attorney R. Deryl Edwards also met with students to share advice from more than 50 years of trial experience.

For the past two years, JHS has fielded a mock trial team that actively participates in regional and state competitions. Last year, the JHS team finished 10th in the state.

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