Mock trial team aims to build on success

As members of Jonesboro High School's mock trial team wiped tears from their eyes on Sunday afternoon, moments after receiving the news they were not this year's state champions, thoughts were already turning to next year.

The team was defeated by rival, Henry W. Grady High School, in the championship round of the Georgia Mock Trial Competition at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Complex, in Lawenceville.

But, with 11 members of this year's team expected to return next year, coaches were working to get the youths pumped up about the future. "We've got 11 coming back next year," Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley, an attorney-coach, told the team members. "From here, we will reach our dream next year. We got to the state championship round this year, and pardon my language, but we're going to be hell [for other teams] next year."

The team, Jonesboro coaches have said, is in a position to make life miserable for other mock trial teams at the state, and possibly, the national level — not only this year, but for a few years to come.

Before the state competition began, team teacher-coach Anna Cox said most of the team's members are freshman and sophomores this year. That opens the door to the possibility of a repeat of the run Jonesboro saw from 2006 to 2008, when it earned three top-five national finishes, including two national championships.

"We are s-o-o-o-o-o proud of them, and their progress, and cannot wait to see them perform next year," Cox said in an e-mail on Monday.

Clayton County State Court Judge John Carbo, another Jonesboro attorney-coach, said the fact that most of the students expect to be on the school's team next year and already have state-championship-round competition under their belts will be "invaluable," since they will know what to expect.

Jonesboro freshman, Mylon Craig, 15, said the younger members of this year's team are already looking to build on this year's finish as the state's mock trial runner-up. "We can only go up from here, since we already know all the basics of how to prosecute and defend a case, as well as all the rules to cite," she said.

Grady coaches said they are also expecting to see Jonesboro to make a strong run at next year's state competition, based on both what they saw from the team in the championship round, and the team's history of consistently strong performances. In the last five years, including this year, Jonesboro has only failed to make it to the semifinals of the state competition once.

"The faces may change, but the attitude stays the same every year with them," said Grady Attorney-coach Carl Gebo.

Fellow Grady Coach Jay Patton said Jonesboro has set the tone for other mock trial teams in Georgia, with six state championships, more than any one else, as well as two national championships. "They've got it down to a science," Patton said. "We would like to have the kind of success that they've had."

In fact, Gebo said that as Grady prepares for that national competition in Philadelphia, Pa., in May, it has to contend with the long shadow Jonesboro has left on the national stage. "Jonesboro has raised the bar for what's expected from a Georgia team." Gebo said. "You can't just go anymore. You have to go there, and do well ... They are the gold standard for mock trial in Georgia."

Members of Jonesboro's team this year include Craig, and teammates, Attalah Ali, Jezreel Amica, Tyler Anthony, Brandon Cash, Callie Christian, Ayana Colbert, Alfred Crea, Ayanha Lubin, Breanna McKnight, Dejurnett Norrington, Braeden Orr, Oriana Patterson, and Fred and Rachel Rohrbach.

Teacher-coaches are Anna and Andrew Cox, and attorney-coaches are Carbo, Mosley, Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield and Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers. Law student Karen Smith is a student coach for Jonesboro.