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RC High runner-up in mock trial competition
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Students play the parts of prosecutors and defenders in San Joaquin County’s Mock Trial competition in Stockton. - photo by Photo Contributed
The 20-member Ripon Christian High School Mock Trial team took second place in the championship round last Monday night at the Education Service Center at the San Joaquin County Office of Education site on Arch Road in Stockton.
It was Ripon Christian’s third consecutive year to be in the runner-up position.  They were presented with this year’s litigation in October, and worked with it since that time in preparing for the February courtroom drama.
Winning the championship was the Venture Academy Family of Schools team – a charter school of gifted students – that meets at the county office campus.  They will go on to represent  San Joaquin County March 21 and 22 in Riverside.
Ripon Christian junior Courtney Jesperson won the top journalism award for her reporting of the “Freedom of Speech” centered trial that she covered.  In addition to her first place plaque she will also compete in the Riverside state finals.
Venture and Ripon were the two top scoring teams in the Feb. 22 competition at the San Joaquin County Courthouse.  Student lawyers were all dressed in business attire as they would be if they were adults prosecuting or defending a case as a legal professional in day-to-day life.
Both teams went head to head to earn the prized spot in the Riverside statewide competition.
Teams competing at the Stockton court house included Venture Academy, Tracy High, West High, Escalon High, Middle College, Ripon Christian High School,  and the Institute of Business Management and Law.
Ripon Christian coaches were Eric Segaar, and his assistant , Sherwin Heyboer.
Heyboer said it’s always interesting to see the students take the class, and run with the case they are given to prosecute and defend.  The Ripon teacher said that of the 18 in the class about half were girls, and it was a mix of students from freshmen to seniors.  The school began competing in the county-wide mock trial competition in 2001.
“They were definitely on top of their game – kudos to them!” he said.
Ripon’s legal team consisted of Melanie Ellsworth, Vanessa Dotinga, Alex Blankers, Danny Terpstra, Tim Hoekstra, Sierra Gibson, Kimberly Van Spronsen, Maurice Ball, Austin Rendon, Michael Perrilliat, Denise Dole, Karen den Dulk, Josh Goeringer, Kelsey Vecchio, Whitney Davis, Josiah Neeley, Peter Marotta, Timothy Ignacio,  Anthony Darretta,  and Courtney Jespersen.
Darretta was lauded for the talent he displayed in his role as court artist.  Both the artist and the journalist are chosen through recommendations from teachers on the school staff, and are not part of the actual class.
The Mock Trial has been a San Joaquin County tradition for some 17 years, and sponsored by the San Joaquin County Bar Association and the San Joaquin County Office of Education in cooperation with the Constitutional Rights Foundation.
Ripon Christian’s successful student prosecutors were Denise Dole and Kimberly Van Spronsen.  Credited with their efforts as defense attorneys were Peter Marrotta and Karen den Dulk.   They all received plaques for their accomplishments in the courtroom as did members of the legal team for their second place win.
Five superior court judges and two court commissioners along with an assistant district attorney, and 14 attorneys all took part in the Feb. 22 event in actual court rooms in the county court house.
The trial was over a spiritual movement in a small town where the “New Believers” had bought land and settled in that community.
One Leslie Lane is charged with arson, and with the inciting of a riot with the alleged intent to burn or destroy the property of the new religious group.  
The prosecution cited Leslie as a charismatic leader of a radical group that opposed the presence of the New Believes in their community, and organized a rally with the theme of “Burn ‘em out.”  A short time after the rally ended a fire broke out.
A pretrial issue involved the First Amendment freedom of speech, and the freedom of expression relating to Leslie’s performance at the rally.
As a matter of law, the incitement to riot statute cannot be applied to Leslie’s conduct at the rally and must be dropped, it was argued.
In working as a team, and honing  their legal skills over four months,  the group of students – freshmen through senior class members – tackled  an adventure in life they will undoubtedly remember for the rest their lives.