Next stop: Madison, Wisconsin
Saipan Southern High School dethroned defending champion Mount Carmel School to win the 16th Annual High School Mock Trial competition Friday afternoon at the Guma’ Hustisia. The victory is the school’s third win in the entire mock trial history. The Manta Ray team first took the championship in 2004 and again in 2006. This year, Marianas Baptist Academy came in third with just a one-and-a-half-point difference on the judges’ score sheets.
The schools argued the hypothetical criminal case, Commonwealth v. Erin Napu. Napu is charged with first-degree murder of her husband, J.R. Satdinas. Napu raised a defense that she was a battered woman and was trying to protect herself from her husband.
Other participating schools were Marianas High School, Rota’s Dr. Rita H. Inos High School, Kagman High School, Saipan Southern High School, and Tinian High School. Both MHS and MCS had two teams competing.
“I am very proud. All the credit should go to the students,” SSHS’ attorney-coach Michael Sato said. “The championship round was intense and I was really proud about how the students were doing. There was a lot of back and forth and a lot of objections and a lot of rules of evidence came into play and they handled themselves professionally and came prepared.”
SSHS won four out of the six ballots cast by the jurors, leaving MCS with just two jurors in favor of their case, the defense. According to mock trial coordinator Deanna M. Ogo the ballots ultimately decided the winner of the last round, but the two were only separated by one point on the jurors’ score sheet.
SSHS teacher-coach Frank Borja echoed Sato’s sentiments. “They all worked very hard and they deserve it,” he said.
Saipan Southern High School’s team represented the prosecution and Mount Carmel argued for the defendant, with attorney Robert Torres presiding over the two-and-a-half-hour trial. The courtroom was packed with students from schools throughout the Commonwealth.
Saipan Southern High’s team is composed of students Mikhail T. Alcantara, Edgar Caras Jr., Angela Cruz, Katrina Mae Cruz, Emily Rose DeWitt, Jin Pyo Jeon, Sung Min “Paul” Kim, Aaron Tiger Lee, Annika Matias, Eliezha May Mendoza, Christian Miller, Myoung Ki “Tony” Oh, Jun Seo “Allen” Park, and Tiara Villagomez.
SSHS now advances to the 31st National High School Mock Trial Competition that will be held in Madison, Wisconsin, on May 8-10.
SSHS’ Katrina Cruz said that she did not expect the win. “I am glad that we won. It was intense.”
Fellow student attorney Allen Park said he is honored to represent the CNMI at the nationals as a first time mock trial member. “We really worked hard as a team and it was really rewarding. The championship round was the fun round. I was not nervous.”
NMPASI attorney Jean Rayphand, one of the championship jurors, said she took the presentation of the teams and the cross-examinations into great consideration when casting her ballot.
MCS’ teacher-coach and school president Galvin Deleon Guerrero told Saipan Tribune that their second-string team was the one that made it to the final round. “We may not have won first place but it reflects very well on our mock trial program that we placed in the top,” he said.
Both MCS teams placed in the top four.
He added that the final round “definitely was the championship round as both teams brought their ‘A’ game.”
MCS student-witness David Kim said that he enjoyed competing in the last round and that “having fun is the best ‘first place’” he can get.
After the championship round, the students gathered for an awards banquet at the Kanoa Resort to recognize outstanding performances of individual student attorneys and witnesses.
Two students were named as the most effective prosecution attorneys: MBA’s Yui Ito and Tinian’s Kyle Sandbergen.
MHS’ Angela Aninon, MCS’ Andrea Manese, and Michael Johnson from MHS were tied for the most effective defense attorney.
Tinian’s Keithley Marquez and MCS’ Amalina Evangelista were named the best witnesses for the prosecution and defense, respectively.
Rota’s Dr. Rita H. Inos Jr./Sr. High School’s team bagged the Supreme Court professionalism award along with MCS’ Team II.
Manese told Saipan Tribune that her experience this year was fun but extremely challenging. “Each year that I come back to compete, the caliber of the students just gets higher and higher.”
The principle sponsors of this year’s event are the CNMI Bar Association, the CNMI Supreme Court, and Northern Marianas Judiciary Historical Society.