Legal Eagles: A Mock Trial Primer
GUEST MPCS STUDENT AUTHOR
Mock Trial is an enriching extracurricular activity that enables students to live out a courtroom experience and compete from both the attorney and witness roles. In addition to being competitive in nature, Mock Trial presents different challenges that both stretch students’ critical thinking skills and educate them on the law.
WHAT IS MOCK TRIAL?
Mock Trial is a unique activity because, as the name implies, it is a mock court case. While learning about the justice system, students can portray a variety of courtroom roles, including witness, defense attorney, prosecutor, or timekeeper.
First, teams receive a case booklet provided by the State Bar of Georgia, which includes an overview of the fictional civil or criminal case, the witness statements, trial guidelines, and all other documents pertinent to the case. All the teams in one state are given the same court case to ensure a level playing field.
Next, students learn about the case and research the evidence, work with their teams and coaches to develop a strong case for the prosecution and defense, and follow required timing guidelines.
Finally, after months of hard work, students compete against other schools at the regional, district, state, and ultimately national levels, whittling down the number of teams after each round of competition. The further the teams advance, the more superb their argument must be.
Regional competitions, which occur in early February, are judged by a judge and jury of two or three local practicing lawyers. There are three rounds of competition in which the prosecution of one school is selected to compete at random against the defense of another school. Competitions are usually held at local courthouses, and each round can last up to an hour and a half.
HOW DOES MOCK TRIAL WORK?
Modeling a true court case, Mock Trial is comprised of four parts: opening statements, direct examination, cross examination, and closing statements. During opening statements, one attorney from both the prosecution and defense presents the team’s case to the court, which includes the judge, jury, and an audience. The opening statements require ample memorization and preparation by the presenting student attorneys.
Next, the prosecution and defense call their witnesses to the stand and directly question them. For direct examination, witnesses and attorneys can practice questions beforehand and communicate about how to make the witness seem as credible as possible.
Following is the cross examination, where opposing sides question the other’s witnesses. Cross examination is the most difficult portion of mock trial because attorneys must attempt to render the witness as biased or not credible. The witnesses must prepare thoroughly, anticipating their opponent’s possible line of questioning, yet not knowing for certain what questions the opposing attorney will ask.
Finally, the attorneys from the prosecution and defense present their closing statements—their final arguments to the court.
FROM THE COURTROOM TO THE CLASSROOM
Mock Trial teaches students about the law while helping them develop critical-thinking and deductive-reasoning skills. From conceptualizing questions to drawing facts together to create an argument, Mock Trial students transfer these skills into the classroom and perform extremely well. Mock Trial participants improve their public speaking, communication, writing, and self-presentation skills. When presenting in front of the court, students practice perfecting annunciation and learn to carry themselves in front of a crowd. In order to develop ideas for an argument, both attorneys and witnesses alike must be able to write thoroughly and convincingly.
There are many facts and patterns involved in Mock Trial, as well as objections and laws which only attorneys must know. Memorization is a key factor in the success of any team and requires hard work and studying, including, for MPCS students, six to eight hours of practices per week. Students learn memorization techniques that carry over to the classroom and leadership skills that help students recognize their ability to help others. This personal development makes Mock Trial an enriching and fun activity.
LAW AND ORDER FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Mock Trial isn’t just about learning how to defend an argument or catching the proverbial “bad guy.” At MPCS, Christian views are taken into perspective. Both coaches and students alike are able to engage in discussions about God’s law. Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
The Lord’s law puts emphasis not only on justice, but also on loving-kindness and walking with the Lord. As Christians, we must always remember that God is sovereign over all things, including the law of the land. When making decisions, whether it be in the courtroom or in real life, we should walk discerningly by the Lord’s side and trust Him through all situations. Mock Trial at Mount Paran Christian School reminds students that, although the law of the land is important, the Lord’s law reigns above all.
Sophomore Sammi Ortega, a first-time defense attorney, says, “The most influential part about Mock Trial for me has been what God has taught me through it. Was it very challenging? Yes. Did it push me beyond my boundaries and put me out of my comfort zone? Also, yes. But without this experience, I would have never had the chance to build my confidence and learn how to accomplish what I believed was impossible.”
THE MPCS LEGAL EAGLES TEAM
Each year, MPCS team members can audition for attorney roles and are assigned witness and timekeeper roles depending on the amount of time they are able to devote to the activity. The MPCS team was led by Mrs. Makia Metzger, a Fulton County prosecution attorney, who advised the students about the process of a trial and taught the students about the law.
Over the past decade, the MPCS Legal Eagles Mock Trial team has established a reputation as an elite competitor in our region, often securing a spot at the district competition and occasionally advancing to state. Additionally, team members have earned multiple Outstanding Attorney and Witness awards each season.
With a new coach and a completely new team this year, students worked extremely hard to hone their abilities for trial day. Junior Kailer Brothers won an Outstanding Witness Award, which is a testament to her and the entire team’s dedication and preparation.
When asked about her experience as a first-time prosecution attorney, freshman Molly Cox said, “Through Mock Trial, I have truly been able to learn so much about myself and the law. I’ve gained confidence in myself and have learned how to be resilient.” Students all over the nation can develop depth of knowledge and breadth of skills through Mock Trial participation. That’s what makes it so special.
Kailer Brothers '21 is a junior at MPCS. She is a member of the MPCS Mock Trial team, most recently being recognized as Outstanding Witness in the Cobb County competition. Miss Brothers has ambitions to study communications and plans to pursue a career in journalism upon graduation.
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