At the crossroads of speech and debate, and acting you find mock trial. Here students not only yell “objection” and submit evidence, but they also act as witnesses ranging from medical experts to members of law enforcement. There are costumes and personas and the experience is rather intense - similar to an actual court case.
Aside from the courtroom dynamics, Mock Trial Coach Vincent Hoang says the Upper School students involved are gaining the critical thinking skills to lead purposeful lives, such as:
In addition, Hoang says team members become comfortable and familiar with the nuances of the law. Local attorneys J. Cullens, Chip Marionneaux and Joseph Scott voluntarily serve as legal experts for the group and guide them through the details. The professionals provide tips on everything from the best way to cross-exam a witness, to how to present a closing statement. In addition to the attorneys and Coach Hoang, the entire social studies department including Dr. Rebecca Kuhn, Billy Pritchard, Edwin Way and Clara Howell also help students with practices and preparation.
To further help Episcopal’s three six member teams gear up for spring competition, Hoang recently traveled with the students to Boston for a mock trial conference. This was not just any conference. The event was hosted by Harvard’s mock trial teams, which are currently ranked fourth in the nation with several team members considered All-American Mock Trial honorees. Hoang says the boot camp-style event renewed the Episcopal team’s excitement for mock trial. Students also gained valuable insight for success and tips on preparing for competition.
To truly take advantage of all the northeast has to offer, Hoang worked with the college counseling team to organize several college visits during the trip. Students had the opportunity to tour Tufts, Boston College, Harvard and Emerson.
Now that they’ve returned, the students are gearing up for competition next month. In mock trial each team is assigned the same case. This year’s competition is a murder trial featuring a social media site, text messages and all the trappings of a modern mystery. The teams must be prepared to present arguments for either side and will not know which side they are on until competition day. Students are expected to construct a theme for their cases and they must take on the role of those involved and be able to anticipate answers to unknown questions while remaining in character.
Competition day takes place in the mock trial version of a stadium – Baton Rouge City Court. Area attorneys and judges observe the proceedings, scoring students on their knowledge of the law, their presentation effectiveness and their ability to stay true to their theme. Ultimately, the team that does this best will be named the winner.
While mock trial students may not aspire to be professional attorneys, the experience is unique and exciting for teenagers. Hoang says the team forms a bond as a result of the time spent together prepping and rehearsing. This bond and the excitement of courtroom competition are certainly something the students will remember years beyond graduation.
Good luck Mock Trial team!