Brawley Mock Trial Team Brings Home State Awards

JOSELITO VILLERO PHOTO Brawley Union High School mock trial team captain Sophia Carrillo (right) and Tom Smerdon show the awards Monday they won in the California Mock Trial competition held this past weekend.

Brawley Union High’s mock trial team walked away with two of 12 awards possible at the California Mock Trial competition this weekend, beating out more than 600 other students for the honors.

“For us it was a major accomplishment,” said senior Sophia Carrillo, the team’s captain. She took home one award — best defense attorney — while teammate Tom Smerdon, a junior, won best witness.

Smerdon, who had to leave the competition a day early because he was sick, said he was shocked when he found out he had won. “I had just gotten home and they called me and I thought they were joking,” Smerdon said.

Brawley Union High placed 18th overall of 36 competing teams. It was no small feat considering the 15-person Brawley team was only half the size of most others.

“I was one of the only people who didn’t double up on parts,” Smerdon said. Carrillo, who has interned with the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office in Brawley, said the mock trial was as close as possible to an actual trial.

The team had to have witnesses, build defense and prosecution cases, and the competition featured others acting as judges, bailiffs and even a court sketch artist.

JOSELITO VILLERO PHOTO Brawley Union High School mock trial coach and teacher Sherrie Newell talks about the team’s performance at the Imperial County Mock Trial Competition.

“They really base it off of real district attorneys and public defenders,” Carrillo said. She said the competition was intense, and that it basically amounted to nine hours straight of public speaking.

Smerdon said there were breaks scheduled, but because the team’s cases ran long, they would only have five minutes before starting the next one.

“Our team should be sponsored by Diet Coke because we drank so much of it,” Smerdon said. Both students said the awards they won would not have been possible without the rest of the team, or the team’s coach, teacher Sherrie Newell.

“To do this you have to have two adults that are willing to give up their lives,” Carrillo said.

Newell in turn said she was very proud of the students. “I’m more here for support than anything else,” Newell said. “We’ve had really excellent students that have really stepped up to make this work.”


Article Reprinted Courtesy of Imperial Valley Press