More than 200 students from 26 area high schools will take on the roles of prosecutors and defense attorneys Thursday in the first round of the 38th annual Riverside County Mock Trial Competition.

The event will begin about 6 p.m. at courthouses in Indio, Murrieta and Riverside. A total of five rounds are planned this month, according to the county Office of Education, which is sponsoring the contest along with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Riverside County Bar Association and the Superior Court.

The county began holding student-level mock trials in 1983. More than 14,000 youths have participated since then, according to organizers.

This year’s contest will challenge participants to successfully argue the fictitious case of People v. Matsumoto, involving a spousal murder, allegedly perpetrated by the founder of a technology company, Bailey Matsumoto.

Teams consisting of eight to 25 students will play the parts of deputy district attorneys, defense attorneys, bailiffs, witnesses, clerks and investigators.

Contestants are given an allotted time, generally four to six minutes, at each stage of a proceeding, including opening and closing statements and cross-examinations.

Practicing attorneys and judges will assess students’ performance and award points in accordance with criteria established for the competition.

Students from public and private high schools are permitted to take part. Last year’s winning team was Poly High School in Riverside.

After the final round on Feb. 29 at the Riverside Historic Courthouse, the highest-scoring team will represent the county at the State Mock Trial Competition, slated for March 20-22 in Los Angeles.

More information is available at

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