By Curt Yeomans
It was May 2002 and the Jonesboro High School mock trial team was in New Orleans for the national competition for the first time in 14 years.
The case for the competition was difficult to understand, so Jonesboro coaches had contacted national organizers several times for clarifications, weeks leading up to the competition.
When the competition weekend arrived, Jonesboro team members were surprised to walk into a room at the courthouse to find a banner hanging up, which said "Top 10 questions [Jonesboro] Georgia forgot to ask..."
Jonesboro's coach said the sign was created by members of the (Tennessee) Family Christian Academy Homeschoolers, who won the 2002 national championship. In 2003, the Homeschoolers became the first, and only, school to ever win more than one mock trial national championship.
Jonesboro, the 2007 national champion, will compete for the right to join Family Christian Academy Homeschoolers on that elite pedestal this weekend in Wilmington, Del. Jonesboro coaches insist the hatchet with Family Christian Academy was buried years ago, though.
"I got an e-mail from one of the students who was on the Homeschoolers' 2002 and 2003 mock trial teams, and he said 'I just heard you guys won the national championship last year, and will defend your title this year ... Good luck!" said Clayton County State Court Judge John C. Carbo, one of Jonesboro's attorney coaches. "We don't have any animosity toward them.
"If anything, we use it as motivation for our current team," Carbo added.
"We've heard the story, but we definitely hold no animosity toward them," said team captain and attorney, Laura Parkhouse. "We always try to keep good relationships with the other schools we meet at nationals."
"There's a bit of pressure because those of us who are new to the team have to uphold what other people did," said Bridget Harris, a junior who is on the team for the first time. As Harris spoke about last year's team, after a dress rehearsal, she pointed at alumni, Brian Cunningham and Britt Walden, who were seniors on last year's national championship team.
Lindsay Hargis, a senior on the team, who, like Parkhouse and Harris, is one of three attorneys who will play legal counsel for both the defense and the plaintiff, said the expectations for Jonesboro will be higher across the board.
"Everybody at nationals is going to be expecting a lot from us, because we are the defending champion," Hargis said. "They are also going to be gunning for us because of that, though."
This morning, Jonesboro mock team members will leave town in style. They will be taken to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at 7:30 a.m., in stretched limousines provided by Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell -- on behalf of his colleagues on the commission.
Once the team reaches Deleware, it will participate in scrimmage rounds with other teams from across the nation on Thursday. The competition rounds will begin on Friday. Each team participates in four rounds of competition. The teams which will make it to the finals will be announced at 4:15 p.m., on Saturday.
The final round will be Saturday afternoon at the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington. The national champion will be named on Saturday at a banquet. By 8:30 p.m., Jonesboro will know if it has joined the Homeschoolers in the smallest group within the club of mock trial champions.
In addition to Jonesboro, others teams are competing this year, who traditionally do well, including Kalamazoo (Mich.) Central High School, the 1996 champion and runner-up in 2006 and 2007.
This year's national competition case is "Mid-East Stevedores Services, Inc. v. Delaware Auto and Marine, Pat Kent, Charlie Kent, Perry White, Clarke Kent and Lois Lane."
The case centers around corporate law and alleged terrorism ties. It involves a foreign company, Mid-East Stevedores Services, which wants to buy Delaware Auto and Marine, which operates the port of Wilmington, Del.
Mid-East Stevedores is owned by the Republic of Aladin, which is a fictional island nation located off the coast of Oman. The company is attempting a hostile takeover of Delaware Auto and Marine.
Delaware Auto and Marine officials claim the foreign company, and the nation which owns it, have ties to terrorism. Mid-East Stevedores Services is the plaintiff, and Delaware Auto and Marine, and its officers, are the defendants.