Last year, the Woodrow Wilson High School mock trial team finished in the top 10 teams in Texas. In 2023, however, they reached new heights! When the dust settled at the end of competition in March, the Wildcats were tied as the 3rd best team in the entire state of Texas! That’s No. 3 out of approximately 160 teams that began competition in January.
“I’m always amazed and proud of how skilled these kids are in competition,” says firm founder Ben DuBose – a Woodrow mock trial coach since 2014. “But this year was exceptional. The team kept working and fine tuning. They refused to quit.” DuBose coaches the team along with noted Dallas attorneys Darren Nicholson and Michael Buchanan.
The season begins each year with a case file issued in early October. The file contains six witness statements, a dozen exhibits, stipulations by the parties and a jury charge. Students also have to learn and become familiar with the rules of evidence.
Students participate as lawyers and witnesses. This year, Woodrow also fielded a courtroom artist as well! Several Woodrow students won recognition in individual rounds of the competition as best witness or best lawyer.
The case alternates from a civil case one year to a criminal case the next. For the 2023 season, the students tried a criminal case: The State of Texoma v. Bon E. Barrow. The case involved two military veterans that took the law into their own hands and the chain of events which followed – culminating in the death of an innocent bystander. Bon E. Barrow was on trial for attempted kidnapping and felony murder.
Each year’s case file is densely packed. The fact patterns are complex and nuanced. The evidentiary issues involved are often not clear cut. “These students have to put in long hours over the entire season in order to master the issues,” says DuBose. “In this age of quick wikipedia searches and 20 second Tik Tok videos, the mock trial competition forces students to slow down. Often the full picture of what the evidence establishes may not be apparent until the students have spent months examining and working the file.” DuBose says that “the deliberative pace is one of the values of this program – it helps teach deep understanding and critical thought.”
The program also gives students an understanding of our court system and the importance of the rule of law. This year, the Woodrow team also attended a mock voir dire program in order to understand a segment of trial not covered in the mock trial competition – jury selection.
Dallas area lawyers and judges volunteer as judges for the competition. The state mock trial competition is administered by the Dallas Bar Association which began the program in 1979. Woodrow Wilson High School fielded one of the very first teams that initial year. 44 years later, this Woodrow tradition is still going strong!