Jonesboro, Riverdale mock trial teams prep for state contest

Eagle’s Landing High among challengers

Photo by Jeylin White: Jonesboro High School’s mock trial team is set to compete in the Georgia Mock Trial Competition scheduled for March 17 and 18, in Lawrenceville.

Photo by Jeylin White: Jonesboro High School’s mock trial team is set to compete in the Georgia Mock Trial Competition scheduled for March 17 and 18, in Lawrenceville.

The Southern Crescent area will be well-represented at the Georgia Mock Trial State Competition, later this month, as two Clayton County high schools and one Henry County high school are set to test their skills and knowledge in the courtroom.

Jonesboro and Riverdale high schools, in Clayton, and Eagle’s Landing High School, in Henry, are among the 19 teams preparing for the competition scheduled for March 17-18, in Lawrenceville.

The competing teams represent 17 regional champions and two wildcard teams. Both Jonesboro High and Eagle’s Landing High will enter the competition as champions of their regions. Riverdale was selected as a wildcard entry.

School officials with Eagle’s Landing High could not be reached for comment for this article. But Anthony Jackson, the teacher coach of the 14-member Riverdale team, said he found out earlier this week that Riverdale was selected as the wildcard pick.

“My students were screaming and running through the whole school,” said Jackson. “We’re so blessed and excited –– actually, excitement would be an understatement.”

Jackson said this is his first year coaching the Riverdale team, and he is assisted by attorney coaches, Kennita Haley, with the Weiner, Yancey, Dempsey and Diggs Law firm, in Atlanta; and Thea Nanton-Persaud, with the Mclain N. Meritt Law firm, also in Atlanta.

Jackson said that, during the Southern Regional competition, held last month, Riverdale loss to the Jonesboro mock trial team by a slim margin, but, he said, his students are prepared to bring their A-game to the state competition.

“Jonesboro is always in the state competition,” he said. “They are very seasoned, and have good coaches, but my students are confident they will have a shot at winning the state competition.”

Teacher coaches at Jonesboro are: Anna and Andrew Cox. Attorney coaches include: Katie Powers, of the Clayton County District’s Attorney Office; Clayton State Court Judge John Carbo; Superior Court Chief Judge Deborah Benefield, and State Court Solicitor General Tasha Mosley.

Anna Cox said the 17-member Jonesboro team has competed at the state level since 2002, but, the last time the school won the state competition was 2008. However, she said, she believes this will be the year, her students will bring home the trophy.

“We have a really good team this year,” she said. “ It’s the best team we’ve had in a long time.”

When Jackson was asked if his students were intimidated by the Jonesboro team, he said his students “really admire and respect them, [but] there is absolutely no intimidation there at all.”

Jackson added that it has been three years since Riverdale had a mock trial team, and 10 years since it won a state competition.

The Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia sponsors the competition, with support from the State Bar of Georgia.

Volunteer teachers and local attorneys coach the teams, and manage the competition phase, as students take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses, based on the evidence and witness statements provided in selected cases.

The teams include members for the prosecution, and for the defense. Sitting judges and professional attorneys serve on judging panels.

The winner of the state competition will represent Georgia in the National High School Mock Trial Championship, in May, in Albuquerque, N.M.