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COLUMBUS - On Thursday, April 11 and Friday, April 12, more than 300 students from 31 schools across Ohio will travel to Columbus to participate in the annual Middle School Mock Trial State Showcase. Middle School Mock Trial is a program of the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education in which students take on the roles of attorneys and witnesses to argue both sides of a case, which is based on a piece of literature commonly read at the middle school level.

Among those participating schools are students from Van Wert Middle School (Van Wert).

The 2013 Middle School Mock Trial State Showcase is based on the novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. Set in rural Mississippi in 1933, character TJ Avery is accused of murder when a robbery goes awry. The State Showcase will take place at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, home to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Each mock trial team consists of six to 12 students who are required to prepare both prosecution and defense cases and to participate in two trials against different teams. Attorneys and judges from across the state will serve as judges. Participating mock trial students will earn points by demonstrating a professional demeanor, good oratory skills, understanding and advancing their side's argument, and understanding trial technique and courtroom process/procedure.

"Mock trial is a great opportunity for students to learn life skills including reading, writing, analyzing, and formulating an argument. Embedded within a murder trial - which students love to argue - these students are gaining skills they will carry with them through high school, college, and beyond. It'll be an impressive display," said Lisa Eschleman, executive director of the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education.

Established in 1983, the Center partners with teachers to engage students in actively learning about government, citizenship and the law.