By Greg Gelpi
Someone cloaked in a grim reaper costume slipped liquid ecstasy into drinks at a Halloween party leading to a college student's death.
Fortunately, the scenario was make believe, but Jonesboro High School's mock trial team learned real world lessons from the story.
Competing for its third straight state mock trial title, Jonesboro fell just shy of another championship, teacher and coach Matt Ford, who has coached the team for two years, said.
"We're happy with how we did, but when you're comfortable with the champ spot, it's a tough pill to swallow," Ford said. "Mock trial isn't about the winning. It's about the experience."
The experience has fostered a love of law for one team member.
"It's taught me about public speaking and thinking on my feet," senior Lauren Johnson, the team's head defense attorney, said.
Johnson said she plans to study international business law at Georgetown and attend law school after that.
"With a couple more ballots, it could have been three years in a row," State Court Judge John C. Carbo III, one of the team's attorney coaches, said.
Each member of the team is assigned a role in the case, including attorneys and witnesses. Each case is tried twice, with half of the team competing as the prosecution against another school's defense and the other half competing as the defense against another school's prosecution. Points are tallied based on both cases.
"I just got addicted to it after a while," senior Andrew Jairam, who competed as a witness, said. "Whatever questions they asked me, I flipped around."
The idea is that witnesses provide information for their team, while giving as little information as possible to the opposing team. It's up to the attorneys to pry the information from the witnesses.
Brian Cunningham, a freshman, also competed as a witness.
"I like the way we have come to work together," Cunningham said. "We came together. We were so different."
Both Cunningham and Jairam were named the best witnesses of the state competition, but Cunningham said he would give up all of his individual awards for the success of the team, since working as a team has been the team's means to success.
At the state competition, Joy Gray and Nikki Lane were also recognized. They were named "best attorneys."
For their performance at the Southern Crescent Regional Mock Trial Competition, Antonio Lindsey received the third best attorney award and the Julie Jobe Award for Excellence.
Rudy Bowen won the "best attorney" award, Roberto Dominguez won the "best witness" award, Sean Anthony received the "best witness" award and Asia Horne earned the second "best attorney" award.
Other members of the team are Lindley Curtis, Ashley Windsor, Janelle Ludaway, Maggie Benefield, William Marshall, Natasha McClendon, William Murphy, Allison Vandiver, Cory Henry, Stuart Kinglsey, Amanda Malcom, Cynthia Saunders, Derrick Parker, Cynthia Clemmons, Christine Sawyer and America Salomon.