By: Noor Mohamed

First-year counsel Christian Velasquez and Angela Nguyen Hoang from Creek View High School went up against senior team Cesilia Perez and Freddy Nieto from Dell Valley High School in a case surrounding intoxicated manslaughter at the Texas Youth and Government (TXYG) State Conference.

The case debates the motion to suppress evidence on an account of error done to Cameron Shepard, the man charged with intoxicated manslaughter. It is the counsels’ job to plead on behalf of both Mr. Shepard and Mr. Cole (arresting officer).

Appellant counsel (Perez and Nieto) opened the floor by placing emphasis on the power of protection that the 4th amendment serves as well as pleading the suppression of the officer’s body camera video as inadmissible hearsay.

Despite being Perez’s third year at TXYG, Judge Brian Jones presented challenging elements during debate. Articulating answers left and right she used the evidence from other court cases to back up her stance.

“The way that the guidelines are most commonly established amongst magistrates is to first reach out to the magistrate that is on call and this is why I bring up Cole v. State,” Jones said.  

On the opposing end, the Appellee counsel (Velasquez and Nguyen Hoang) made headway on their points indicating a heap of confidence despite their nerves ongoing against an experienced team.

“Officer Cole knows that by turning on the body camera everything that is captured on the camera which includes the audio and video recording will have a chance of being used as evidence,” said Hoang.

Judge Jones ruled the case in favor of the Appellant after both counsels final arguments. Jones’ final rule was determined by the fact that “there were several elements of hearsay in it, but it was not enough to completely eliminate the footage from the submission of evidence.”

Both teams spent months preparing for this trial and brought thorough arguments to the courtroom.

“A substantial amount of reading went into case law, facts, evidence, and affidavits. By reading case law not only were we more prepared, but we were able to follow more guidelines to prove our point,” says Perez.

Nieto reaffirmed their preparation by emphasizing the development of critical thinking as a skill necessary to break down the case, “there’s more to it than you just see that can actually help you make deeper connections to the case.”

First-year team Velasquez and Hoang had a different yet interesting approach.

“We thoroughly went over our information and tried to memorize as much as we could to help be better quick thinkers during the trial. We also tried to prepare questions the judge might ask us before entering the room which personally helped me a lot,” said Velasquez.

Hoang added that “most of it was through our teamwork. Without him [Velasquez], I wouldn’t have been able to perform as well as I did or be able to develop more of my ideas from a different point of view.”

Through the dynamics of both teams, it is evident of the hard work that an immense amount of students bring packed in their suitcases when arriving to the annual YG conference.

From an outside perspective, Judge Jones observed that “it was very intriguing how one focused on how severe the problem was and pleaded more to one’s emotions than actual case law. While the other really focused on precedent. ‘What would it mean about the future?’ this really honed into my role as a justice and what I should be concerned about.”

Both teams plan on being critical in future trials to be able to strengthen the skills that have been working for them, but also build from what their opponents say to keep growing their arguments. They both hope to be as successful throughout the rest of the conference and learn from others as much as possible.