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March 13, 2004

BHS mock trial team headed to state

From: Journal Times Online, WI - Mar 13, 2004

By Abe Winter

BURLINGTON - It's a rarity when sports teams go from last to first place from one year to the next.

It may not be so rare among high school mock trial competition, but that's exactly what the Burlington High School mock trial team did by winning the nine-team regional earlier this month after finishing last in 2003.

BHS had two groups of students - one arguing for the conviction of J.A. "Dogskin" Johnson for the kidnapping and murder of a young girl and the other group defending the accused. Each had three witnesses to prove its side of the case. The case was based upon the disappearance and death of a real child named Annie Lemberger in Madison in 1911.

The exercise requires the student attorneys to learn portions of the law, write questions and examine witnesses, make and defend objections and prepare an opening and a closing. In addition, each had to act and speak like an attorney.

The witnesses have to know the information contained in the materials but also take on a persona and act it out.

The team was coached by Amy Lamerand Zott, an attorney with Konicek, Kaiser, Scholze, Wanasek & Zott, S.C.; Patricia Hoffman, assistant superintendent of Burlington Area School District; and Kris Skewes. They said they'll have their team primed for the state competition Sunday in Madison.

At the competition, the prosecution of one team presents against the defense team from another school and vice versa. The presentations are judged by local attorneys and judges who donate their time each year.

The prosecution attorneys are Robert Niccolai, Jessica Shafe and Heather Libbey, who has an unusual future planned for herself. She says she enjoys politics and wants to go to law school.

"But I don't want to be a lawyer," Libbey said. "That's what I think. I like the whole courtroom scene, but I'd rather go into politics than be a

courtroom lawyer."

Billy Hochschild played the role of Capt. A. Davenport like a true police veteran and Brandon Fry delivered a convincing witness performance, first as a grieving father and then as a witness for the defense.

The defense attorneys are Michelle Lincoln, Ali Skewes, and Chris Kuhl.

They relied on witnesses - Brendan Haglund, Holly Bocchi and Andrew Harding - to poke holes in the prosecution's case.

"We've accomplished a lot because we're a bunch of students with no background at all in law," Lincoln said. "But we came together, learned the basis of it and were able to present a complete case.

"It's a lot of fun. It teaches you how to think, and we learned a lot, but I'm not going to become a lawyer."

Now the team is preparing for its trip to state.

"I'm a little nervous because we still have some work to do to make the jump from regionals to state," Libbey said. "We've never gone to state before, so we don't know what's it's like. It's kind of jumping into the deep end."

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