Modesto High claims Mock Trial title

Modesto High School defeated Johansen High to win the 24th annual Stanislaus County Mock Trial competition Tuesday. Modesto advanced to the state Mock Trial finals, which will be in Riverside in March.

The competition was based on a hypothetical Hollywood murder case in which Modesto prosecutors tried a friend of the victim while the Johansen defense team tried to pin the blame on the victim's girlfriend.

Students played lawyers and witnesses. Retired Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami presided. Praising both teams, he found the defendant guilty.

The verdict did not determine the winning team. A panel of legal experts decided: Chief Deputy Public Defender Kent Faulkner, District Attorney Birgit Fladager and County Counsel Michael Krausnick.

Modesto and Johansen reached the county finals after winning elimination rounds last week against Beyer, Davis, Denair, Downey, Enochs, Pitman and Turlock high schools.

Sean Towers of Johansen High received the first Ryan Dickerson Award for excellence and leadership in Mock Trial from Ron and Lynn Dickerson. Their son Ryan, a 2007 Modesto High graduate who had competed in Mock Trial, died in a swimming accident over the summer.

Tim Day of Modesto High won the journalism award for a story he wrote about the Mock Trial case. Shimwoo Lee of Modesto High won the "artist in the courtroom" award for a trial sketch.

Coaches also presented awards to students in each of their schools.

The awards were given at the Stanislaus County Office of Education, one of the tournament sponsors. Others were the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County and the Gianelli & Associates law firm.

This was the 10th time Modesto High has won the county competition. Downey and Johansen have each won six times. Beyer and Davis, the 2006 champion, have each won once.