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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Students show success in Mock Trial

by Robert Schmidt

Though many extra-curricular activities offer students credit hours, few will give them a full three credit hours in one semester.  Mock Trial, sponsored by Barry Langford, chair of the criminal justice department, and Dr. David Roebuck, professor of political science, can allow students to earn those hours -- if you are signed up for the class.

The class has a large list of requirements and objectives.  Students will learn the differences between civil and criminal cases, understand what hearsay is and many other issues regarding the law and court ethics.  Students are also expected to know the history of the American Mock Trial Association upon completion of the course.   Many of the students, such as senior Esnaldo Villelobos and sophomore Paula Willis, are using Mock Trial as preparation for law school.  Willis said Mock Trial was useful to “gain experience in law procedures, especially since I plan on being a lawyer.”

Mock Trial is not for those who are timid about making public speeches.  Each year the team travels to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to participate in competition against other schools.  A fictional court case is assigned for all of the schools to learn.  Members are assigned to roles such as defense attorney, witness or defendant.  They are judged based on their performance of these roles.

On Oct. 17, the team attended a scrimmage held at Brown Hall on Columbia College’s campus against various schools in the Missouri area.  They placed second, just three points behind Washburn University.  “It was real close. I was really happy with the outcome,” Roebuck said.

In the past few years, membership in Mock Trial has fluctuated. Langford said, “The last four years we’ve had several dozen.”  But he says membership this year is down.  “We can get by with six to 10 members, provided they know what they’re doing,” he said.

Some students mentioned that the lack of members might increase difficulty.  “We’re down to just eight members this year, which means we have a lot more work for each person,” Villelobos said.  Despite this, Langford thinks they can still be competitive.  “We’ve got a real strong team this year.  Most are returning from last year,” he said.

Willis said that despite the added work, it would still be fun.  “Since we’re all in it together we have to make sure everyone is on the same page,” she said.  In previous years they had been able to field more than one team, Willis said.

Mock Trial is only offered in the fall semester, so students wishing to join will have to wait until next year.  Because of the flexible schedule, many students have found that it does not conflict with their regular courses.  In addition, it is possible for students to participate in Mock Trial without taking the class.  They are still required to attend practices, participate in competition and be actively involved in fundraising.

The Des Moines meeting is the culminating event, but the team also travels to Omaha and other schools in the Midwest to practice for the final event.  Students interested in participating in Mock Trial can contact Langford in 330 St. Clair.

Photos by TJ Guese.

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