By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant
Students involved in Mock Trial at UTC get to try their hand at a real court case without the threat of legal repercussions. Mock Trial is a trial simulation that provides great skills for a wide variety of students, not just Political Science majors and future lawyers. Teams of six to ten students play the parts of lawyers and witnesses before a real judge.
At the beginning of the semester, teams received a case which includes evidence, affidavits, case law, a penal code, and rules of evidence. This year’s case was a robbery. Past years’ cases have included civil suits and murders.
Competitions proceed like real court cases. They begin when the judge enters the room. Each side gives opening statements, calls witnesses, cross examines witnesses, and ends with a closing statement. Attorneys are judged on their ability to make their case, while witnesses are judged on their ability to play their part while keeping with the information in their affidavit.
“I started in my freshman year,” says Chelsea Sokol, the captain of one of UTC’s two Mock Trial teams. “I have a huge fear of public speaking and I thought, well, time to get involved in campus organizations, might as well get over a terrible fear as well. I think I’ve improved a lot, but I really like the preparation side. I like forming the argument, because that’s the part I think is fun.” Sokol is a senior English major who is considering attending law school after graduation.
Stephanie Fast, the other team captain, has also found that Mock Trial has honed her skills.
“It’s good for public speaking and in general being quick on your feet. Before I did Mock Trial, I was shy and introverted, and I’m not that way anymore. It was a big thing for me. I like it, which is why I kept doing it in college,” says Fast, who has been competing in Mock Trial since high school. “Competition is my favorite part now. Preparation is not always that fun. Competition is what keeps me coming back,” says Fast.
Anyone is welcome to participate in Mock Trial, regardless of their major. Fast, for instance, is a junior in graphic design with no intentions of pursuing a career in law.
Interest was so great in Mock Trial this year that, for the first time, UTC sponsored two Mock Trial teams.
“This year we happily had a lot of people who wanted to be on the team, so we split the team into two teams. The blue team was mostly returning members and the gold team was mostly new members,” explains Sokol, the gold captain.
UTC competed in a major invitational tournament at Middle Tennessee State University this fall.
The blue team did well at the MTSU tournament. They won four and tied one of eight cases. Two members of the blue team also walked away with awards: Adrianna Eder won an award for Best Witness, while blue team captain Stephanie Fast won an award for Best Attorney.
The gold team won two of their eight cases.
“It’s really good for a new learning team,” says Sokol.
Mike Giglio, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Political Science and a local lawyer who coaches the team, agreed. “I’m very proud of the effort put forth by both teams!” he exclaimed.
This spring, UTC will consolidate the two teams into one strong team to compete in regionals.
“The wonderful thing about programs like collegiate Mock Trial is that it allows students to apply the material they have learned in their courses, practicing skills they will use, regardless of what career path they follow,” says Dr. Michelle Deardorff, Head of the Department of Political Science. “It is in this marriage of theory and practice that undergraduate students are best equipped for their future professional lives. Our hope is that our majors not only are successful in the classroom but during their time with us find many ways to translate their knowledge and skills in a myriad of settings, such as internships, independent research projects, and study abroad programs.”