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MOCK TRIAL ACADEMIC TEAM:
During the fall months of each school year, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) releases a case packet to all high schools participating in their Mock Trial Program. This case packet outlines a fictional criminal case — whether it be grand larceny, murder, or human trafficking — and consists of multiple witness statements as well as a fact situation which detail the crime being tried. Each Mock Trial team (our usually consists of around fifteen or so members), divides their members among the prosecution and the defense; some members are assigned to take on attorney roles while others take on witness roles. Through the crafting of questions by attorneys and the memorization of chains of events by witnesses, slowly, the motions taken to prepare for a trial proceeding come together. With competitions approaching around November, competing Mock Trial teams commute to the Santa Ana Courthouse to face off against other schools in real courtrooms in front of real judges as they host a "mock trial," their performances assessed by attorney scorers. The competition process consists of four preliminary competitions, out of which the top sixteen move on to play-off elimination rounds. In 2014 and 2015, our Mock Trial team made it to playoffs for the first time in several years and despite our defeat last year, we remain thoroughly optimistic as we reach out to interested students to join for our 2017 school year!
In addition to a teacher coach, our Mock Trial team has two attorney coaches, Glenn Segal and Jennifer Needs, who join us at practices and assist us with the trial preparation process. While this may sound overly-structured and intimidating, I assure you that both our attorney coaches are incredible, supplying criticism in either the most constructive or sarcastically animated way. It is really an enjoyable experience to work alongside such experts and see all of the work they put in reflected in our court performance.
Nothing is more exciting yet thoroughly nerve-racking than Mock Trial competitions. For each trial, either our prosecution or defense team will commute to the Santa Ana Courthouse to face the opposing side of another school. Our team and competing team are assigned a courtroom in which we enact a trial in front of a real judge. The verdict of the trial (guilty/not guilty) does not determine the winner, but rather attorney scorers sit in and score each member on performance. The experience of holding a mock trial in a real courtroom, in front of a real judge is enlightening and provides participants with a good idea of how the justice system works.
After every competition, members meet up at Harbor House along with our attorney coaches to relax and discuss our performance while also comically picking out the flaws of the opposing team’s presentation. This ritual allows members to bond and get hyped for upcoming competitions.
WHAT IS THE MOCK TRIAL CLUB
Mock Trial Club will provide its members with the opportunity to learn about key aspects of the criminal justice system including constitutional law, criminal law, courtroom decorum, and standard trial procedures. It will also act as an extension of the Mock Trial academic team and will work to foster and improve fundamental skills both inside and outside of the courtroom.
In every case packet we receive, there is some type of controversial evidence whether it be an incriminating note, list, statement, etc. It is the job of the pre-trial attorneys to utilize constitutional law and previous Supreme Court rulings in order to argue either for or against the admission of said evidence. At trial, pre-trial motions are debated prior to opening statements and attorneys must present their constructed arguments while also prone to interruptions by the judge.
GOOD FOR: People who enjoy public speaking, can easily think on their feet, can perform under pressure, and are interested in pursuing a career in law.
Trial attorneys are responsible for putting witnesses on the stand and questioning them about events related to the crime. The two types of questioning are direct examination and cross examination. Direct examination is a line of questioning in which an attorney asks their own witnesses questions that aid in building and strengthening a case for or against the defendant. Cross examination consists of a more aggressive line of questioning, in which attorneys attempt to poke holes in opposing counsel’s witness testimony. Trial attorneys are also expected to argue objections made by the other side and make appropriate objections necessary to defend their witness and prevent weakening of their case. Some trial attorney roles are required to deliver opening or closing statements as well.
GOOD FOR: People who enjoy/want to improve public speaking skills, can think on their feet, and are interested in pursuing a career in law.
Witnesses are responsible for piecing together elements of a case through their testimony. Portraying a character, they are expected to thoroughly know all information inside of their given witness statements which they use to answer questions in court. In direct examination, witnesses offer up a variety of evidence to strengthen their case, while in cross examination, they defend their testimony against opposing counsel’s harsh lines of questioning. Both prosecution and defense have three lay witnesses and one expert witness.
GOOD FOR: People who enjoy acting and prefer to observe trial proceedings without constant participation. Most first year members start as witnesses.
The bailiff is the “officer of the court” and is responsible for bringing the court to order, swearing in witnesses, and silencing disruptive spectators.
GOOD FOR: People who prefer to observe trial proceedings without in depth participation, new members, and members who are interested but unable to put forth an extensive time commitment.
The clerk, or “timekeeper,” is responsible for timing pretrial arguments, opening statements, direct and cross examination, and closing arguments.
GOOD FOR: People who enjoy doing math, new members, and members who are interested but unable to put forth an extensive time commitment.
Like any team, the success of our Mock Trial team lies on the shoulders of every member. Attorneys spend most practices working alongside their witnesses, forming questions and building conversational tones. Additionally, both attorneys and witnesses will collaborate with opposing attorneys and witnesses in order to prepare for potential direct examination questions, cross examination questions, and objections. Attorney coaches are always available to assist with question forming and witness character, keeping the process informational and comparable to real trial preparation. Closer to competitions, the team will hold full run-throughs in which members enact all trial proceedings to completion. Because all trial prep is linked, students are in a constant process of working together in order to help each other improve and achieve team success.
Each role in Mock Trial speaks for a portion of the trial, whether it be dictating a few words or presenting an entire argument to the court. No matter what, anyone part of our team will gain some degree of confidence in their public speaking ability. Obviously, this improvement is more easily seen in people who fill the roles of attorneys as they are responsible for presenting the most evidence and contributing to their side’s argument. Pre-trial members must not only offer pre-constructed arguments, but are also responsible for responding to the judge’s questions throughout their presentation. Likewise, trial attorneys who deliver opening statements or closing arguments spend several minutes on their feet, speaking to the court. There is a great deal of confidence to be gained throughout this process, and while it may be nerve-racking, it’s highly beneficial in the long run.
Due to the fact that most of Mock Trial is collecting pieces of evidence in order to build an argument as to why the defendant is either guilty or not guilty, it makes sense that members walk away with solid argumentative skills. As previously mentioned, Pre-trial is responsible for presenting a motion to the judge, backing it up with sufficient evidence from constitutional law and Supreme Court precedents, and must attempt to convince the judge to rule in their favor. Trial attorneys are constantly arguing objections throughout the lines of questioning, explaining why certain testimony is acceptable or not. Closing arguments state the aspects of each charge that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt and proceed to back up each element with evidence presented throughout trial. Even witnesses must defend themselves on the stand against cross-examination questions. Often, students don’t realize how much they are building their debating skills throughout this process, but by the end, each member is able to use evidence from the case to put forth a sufficient argument for their side.
|James Daly III||ex: 11702||English Teacher|
For any additional information, feel free to shoot us any of us an email, and we will get back to you as soon as possible, thank you!
email@example.com (Teacher Coach
firstname.lastname@example.org (Teacher Coach)
Club Captain Prosecution:
Club Captain Defense: