Mock Trial competition –bkm -jcr (I heart bkm -dlh)

Emily Passey

The Mock Trial team might be one of the least known groups at Lawrence, but this dynamic group deserves to be showcased. Mock Trial requires a combination of courtroom, memory, and acting skills. Although the team primarily consists of government majors, all agree that their strongest witness is freshman Caitlin Gallogly *******– a theatre arts major. All have expressed some desire to go to law school in the future.
The Lawrence team was established this year after an inspired student, Serene Sahar, realized that she missed her high school mock trial days. She and her father apparently organized all the information over the past summer and came prepared to start the team at Lawrence.
Most of the members of the team are people who were enrolled in Sahar’s “Intro to Constitutional Law” class who had also expressed interest in the endeavor. Their faculty adviser is Dean Marti Hemwall, who hooked them up with a real lawyer to be their coach **********– her husband John Peterson. Tim Ruberton, a junior government major, gives “mad props” to Peterson for really teaching them some great courtroom tactics.
The LU team competed in only one tournament, regionals, this being their first year in existence. Regionals were held at Marquette University in Milwaukee in early February of this year. The Lawrence team *******– voted best new team at regionals *******– won three out of eight of trials. They just missed the required four to continue to nationals.
“Mock Trial” sounds self-explanatory, but there’s more to it than simply playing a fake trial. The team receives a fictitious court case including evidence and affidavits that they have to study in depth. Each team member is assigned a role of witness or lawyer, basically becoming his/her character. Maggie Helms ********– a sophomore member of the team ********– said that this is the hardest part.
The lawyers, for example, are charged with knowing all the case information, including real laws and courtroom rules, as well as all the information that each witness knows so they can effectively cross-examine them. Even though the trial is “mock,” it is virtually the same as a real trial.
The tournament consists of four rounds, two rounds per team, with three attorneys and three witnesses. After four rounds, the “judges” award points based on role-playing, the quality of cross-examination, opening statements, and closing statements. There are no final verdicts and no team rankings, just points awarded.
Lawrence’s Mock Trial team competed against schools that have “Mock Trial” available as a class for credit and apparently take the tournament very seriously. Leila Sahar, a freshman member of the team, said that Mock Trial is taken “as seriously as a varsity sport” at the more experienced schools.
The Lawrence team, launched in early January, practiced for from one to one and a half hours once a week, and then more often as the tournament drew nearer. The schools that had started much earlier, in August or September, had their speeches memorized and were working from months of preparation. Lawrence had only about six weeks to bring its performances up to regional standards.
The Mock Trial team turns out to be an interesting group with some serious skills and dedication. They really hope more students will join next year, especially all you actors!