Teens In The Courtroom

The judges say Long Beach high school senior Elizabeth Heyman was flawless in her opening statements. Heyman says her team has been working hard for several months.

"Our team prepared for this since December, for months. I'm proud of everybody."

These amateur lawyers are duking it out over a contested will. The Long Beach team must prove their client is the rightful heir to a $11 billion fortune. But, Moss Point Del-Teen Civic and Social club members must prove an illegitimate child of the deceased billionaire should get the money instead.

"It was very hard trying to learn the part. Well the worst part was cross examination because you didn't know what they were going to ask you. You had to really be prepared," said Brittney Sherrod, Moss Point High Student.

Licensed lawyers from each team's community helped students memorize their parts and learn trial proceedings. They say it's important to train vigourously for any trial...real or not.

"Well you have to be tough. Perfect practice is what makes perfect, not just practice," said Warren Conway, coach for the Moss Point team.

"We practiced constantly, everyday all day after school. 10 o'clock in the morning to 10 o'clock at night," said Takira Baxter.

After the grueling task of filing objection after objection, do these team members really want to be lawyers? Heyman says it depends on the outcome of this trial.

"When I was younger, I always wanted to be a lawyer and I thought this would be a good experience. Then I thought maybe I'd do something else. Maybe after this competition I'll know what to do."

But Baxter says this isn't the job for her.

"It's too nervewracking and stressful. But pretending is fun."

Whatever the teens decide to do for their careers, Conway says he sees all of his team as future Mississippi Bar Association members.

Out of the eight teams that competed, only three get to advance to the state championships. Both teams from Long Beach High were chosen to attend, plus a team from St. John High School. One of the Del-Teen Civic and Social club members from Moss Point will serve as alternate if one of the selected teams cannot make it.

The state competition is in two weeks in Jackson. Whoever wins that competition will advance to nationals.

By Jennifer Holliman