What is a "mock trial" anyway?
I am the captain of the Mock Trial team at my school and an avid student of law, yet more often than not, when explaining this to anyone other than an admissions officer, I am met with a blank stare and the question: what is Mock Trial?The simple definition I generally give is that Mock Trial is a mixture between debate and drama where students get to perform real cases in front of real Judges. In reality though, Mock Trial is so much more than that.
The Mock Trial season generally runs from the weekend around January 26 to the weekend around March 21. Teams usually begin practices in November or December much like sports teams do pre-season workouts.
The season begins when that year’s case is released. The case is the scenario and srt of events which the mock trial will be based on. For example, a gorilla bite at a children’s zoo or a meth lab fire which kills a college student.
Each case consists of a series on non-disputed facts. 3 witness statements for each side, and five or six exhibits. Mock Trial students must then pick three students to be attorneys, three students to play the parts of the witnesses, and a student to act as the bailiff.
Then the teams spend one month memorizing all the facts of the case, and building theories for both sides. They are judged not only on their knowledge of the law, but also their credibility, presentation of the facts, and knowledge of objections. After one month, the team will try they case in front of a panel of three real judges/attorneys in a real courtroom at the local courthouse while another high school or junior high team will plays the other side.
Trials generally last three intense hours, during which the competitors cannot have any contact with the audience, their coach, or their witnesses. The idea is that students must rely 100% on their own knowledge when they are being cross examined (as witnesses) or handling objections and objecting (if attorneys).
At the conclusion of the trial, the judges award two scores: one is the merits of the case or who would have won had it been a real case, and the other is the points based on each competitor. The team who wins points usually wins all three judges ballots and advances to the next round. Since most Mock Trials are done in a “sudden death” fashion, losing usually means the end of the season for the entire team. The goal for all teams in to win the state championship and to get to fly to the national competition that year, wherever they are held.