Mock Trial: more than just a courtroom simulation
On February 2nd, Stevenson’s mock trial defense team participated in the mock trial competition against Pacific Grove in Monterey’s Local Superior Court.
Situated in a real courtroom with a retired judge, the atmosphere is intense and the assignments are demanding. The entire procedure of the trial can be divided into four steps: the opening statement, witness testimonies and cross-examinations, closing statements, and the verdict–announced by the judge.
The trial is designed to be structured, yet compact. The judge is allowed to interrupt and ask questions while the attorney’s deliver statements; can also complete rebuttals based on notes taken during the proclamations.
The event was carried out with high quality, and both teams presented a heated debate. Eventually, the defendant “Jordan Franks” played by Chloe McClintock was being accused of battery and robbery.
Although some students are inexperienced, mock trials require commitment. Maya Tsui, for example, joined the program at a later stage, and soon fell in love with it.
“I joined Mock Trial later than everyone else, since the team was missing a witness and I was willing to fill in that spot,” said Maya Tsui, a sophomore who played the role of witness in the trial. “I started at around late October, and at the time there were two weekly meetings, both around an hour, and mostly working on direct examinations. Over winter break, some of us dedicated some time to zoom meetings to further prepare. As we got closer to the competition date, meetings increased in frequency and we spent more and more time practicing and polishing our drafts, before we had two dress rehearsals two weeks before our first competition. Those dress rehearsals were around three hours each, one on Saturday and one on Sunday for two weeks going over the entire process, and also practiced by going before two actual judges in Zoom meetings.”
When discussing techniques used to make proclamations more persuasive, she explains, “I kept calm by keeping my eyes focused on my attorney, and then when it was time for cross examination from the prosecution of PG, I kept my eyes trained on that attorney. I tried to keep a level but not monotonous tone, since that would bore the courtroom, but also speak relatively quickly with some emotion during certain responses.”
Another student, Alyssa Sun who played the role of a witness, also committed to her role. Beyond simply memorizing statements and potential responses to cross-examinations, she needed to be extremely resourceful and vigilant under the trial settings and practice dozens, even hundreds of times, totaling more than the time spent in the real competition.
“I actually forgot the final price of the ring, which was a selling point to determine if the robbery was petty theft or grand larceny. I knew that a gram of gold was 55.09 dollars, and it was 14 solid grams, so I ended up doing the math quickly just to make sure. Otherwise, it went according to plan.” She also draws attention and respect to the rest of the members of the team: “The attorneys and coaches spend the most time, and the defendant right after. Everyone memorizes their statements and writes their own directs and crosses early in preparation. The rest of the time is for editing the drafts and practicing. Other things that aren't evidence, like stipulations and rules, are also paraphrased and memorized in the times when it applies to the witness' character. I can't really give a good estimate, but we were a lot more on schedule than last year.”
It is apparent that the mock trial competition stimulated improvements to the participants on both skills and experience remarkably.