Dos Pueblos High School's mock trial team at the 2023 state finals in Los Angeles. | Credit: Courtesy Santa Barbara Unified School District

In a fictional test of real persuasive and legal skill, Dos Pueblos High School students argued their way into second place at the California Mock Trial Finals on Sunday, March 19, in Los Angeles. 

The Dos Pueblos team were the champions of the Santa Barbara County Mock Trial competition on March 4, securing their spot in the state finals. There they joined winning teams from 36 other counties across the state. 

“Representing Santa Barbara County was an incredible accomplishment and honor for our team,” said Dos Pueblos High School Principal Bill Woodard, a former mock trial coach. “We were so proud of how our kids rose to the occasion against the best of the best.”

Winning teams in the finals presented People v. Franks, the imaginary case of young actor Jordan Franks, a performer in the Shakespeare adaptation Macbeth at Sea on the cruise ship Heart of the Ocean. In the dramatic case, Franks was charged with robbery and battery of his fellow actor Billie Scher, with it being alleged that Franks stole Scher’s signet ring once belonging to William Shakespeare and broke Scher’s arm in the process. 

Students examined witnesses, presented evidence, and alternatively argued for both prosecution and defense across the competition’s four rounds leading up to the final. After successfully presenting their case in the simulated court battles, the Dos Pueblos team had defeated four other county champions and earned their place in the top two alongside Menlo School from San Mateo County.

In the championship round, Dos Pueblos presented the defense. Senior Jacob Molina was named an “Outstanding Attorney” for his performance defending the fictional robbery and battery case. 

Molina, who presented the trial’s closing argument, shared with the County Education Office that he tries to “script as little as possible” in trials. “I find that it’s a lot more fun for me, and a lot more believable and convincing, if I am able to be flexible and responsive and come up with things as they happen,” he said. 

According to Woodward, Dos Pueblos has a history of success in the mock trial arena, with three state titles and eight appearances in the final championship round.

“While coming so close to another state title may sting for a minute, these kids have made their coaches, their school, and their county proud,” Woodard said. “At the end of one round, the presiding judge — who’s a federal judge — called Jacob out and said she’d rank his motion work among the best she’s heard from actual attorneys in her courtroom.”

Molina gave credit to the team’s unity and strength for their performance in the final rounds. “Coming together in that big moment, keeping our motivation and energy levels high, and being able to support each other and come through … was big for us,” he said.

At the county level, the Santa Barbara County Education Office (SBCEO) co-sponsors the competition with the Santa Barbara County Superior Court and the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

“These students have worked so hard for so long — it’s exciting to see the state’s recognition of their tremendous efforts. Thanks to the families, the coaches, and all of the supporters,” said County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Susan Salcido.

Dos Pueblos High’s Mock Trial team is coached by Hannah Krieshok, teacher coach; and attorney coaches Lisa Rothstein, Christine Voss, and Lina Somait. Team members are Liam Avolio, Edo Barel, Tobin Bohley, Victoria Chen, Charlotte Choi, Elyssa Crutchfield, Theo Evans, McKenzie Kelly, Rachel Lenchner, Anastasia Li, Koi Liechti, Amelia Mendro, Jacob Molina, Daniel Nickolov, William Shen, Maxfield Steele, Alok Thakrar, Sienna Valentine, Jonathan Yang, and Io Zhu.


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