Groups of students from 32 schools have been involved in a big argument in Des Moines, but instead of breaking it up, the adults are encouraging the kids to go at it. It’s the annual Mock Trial State Championship. John Wheeler of the Iowa Bar Association says students have been working for months to get ready.

He says the students portray the prosecution and defense in a hypothetical case they were given back in December. Wheeler says the case being used in this competition is straight from real life. Wheeler says the case deals with a “not guilty by reason of insanity” case, so it has a lot of the same issues as the Mark Becker case.

Becker was found guilty last month of first-degree murder in the death of Aplington-Paerkersburg coach Ed Thomas. Becker’s attorneys unsuccessful used the insanity defense. Wheeler says the students are judge by the way they present the arguments. He says the students have to present both the prosecution and defense sides and are judged by actual lawyers and those who have experience with mock trial.

Wheeler says the goal is to improve the students overall skills in many areas. He says the vast majority of the students won’t go into law, and he says they don’t look at it as training lawyers, they look at it as training future citizens. Wheeler says they’re becoming more familiar with the role of attorneys and the legal system, but they are more importantly are getting a chance to practice problem-solving and presentation skills. The finals are being decided this afternoon in the courtroom of the Iowa Supreme Court.