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High schools go head-to-head in mock murder trial

ERICA RODRIGUEZ

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
Jan. 28, 2011 at 5:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 27, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.


GOLIAD - A tale of murder, friendship and teenage jitters unraveled Friday at the Goliad County courthouse for the first time.

The room echoed with high school lawyers, witnesses and a full jury of teens.

Yorktown and Goliad students faced off in a mock murder trial based on the John Steinbeck novel "Of Mice and Men."

The mock trial was a Goliad tradition that's crossed generations and school districts.

Yorktown represented George Milton, a main character in the book, who was on trial for murdering his friend Lenny, who is mentally disabled.

The student event began in the 1980s when former-Goliad English teacher Teresa Childress organized a mock trial as a competitive event. When she left for Yorktown, so did the trial. This year, Childress' former student Kristin Billo, now a Goliad High School teacher, organized her class to go to trial.

"I was so excited they were able to bring it back again this year," said Mary Claire Speed. The former Goliad high school student also played in the trial when she was a freshmen. Friday she watched her children get competitive. "This is a competitive group of kids and they need that to succeed," she said.

The students, fully immersed in their characters, donned southern accents, tattered clothing and lawyeresque outfits to look the part of the book's characters.

Speed's son Austin carried his grandfather's briefcase and his great-grandfather's wooden cane.

"It's the stereotype of the Southern lawyer," he said. "So, you get the look to stay in character."

Students were tense, but clear and straight-forward as they answered and questioned each other before Harold Gleinser, retired Goliad County judge.

"I think it was pretty tough to be prepared for anything that can happen," said Jennifer Huddleston, a Yorktown freshmen who played a defense attorney. "For me it wasn't about a grade or anything like that, it was just fun."

A jury of high school seniors deliberated the case. They found George Milton guilty and ruled in Goliad's favor.

"It was a big sigh of relief on our side," said John Wirt, a Goliad senior.

Childress said having the two schools against each other took the competition to the next level, and she and Billo are already planning for next year's case.

"It's just a relief," Childress said. "I'm real pleased with their performance."

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