Mock Trial Team Takes Shape

mock-trial.jpgEver since she first arrived at Central Methodist University, instructional services librarian Vera Elwood has been eager to add a mock trial team to the school’s repertoire of competitive organizations. This fall, that dream has come true.

An experienced mock trial competitor herself in her undergraduate years, Elwood saw an opportunity to give students the chance to be a part of a team and learn some lifelong skills along the way.

“I am certain that I would not be where I am in my career today without mock trial,” Elwood said. “I have repeatedly been praised by interviewers and supervisors for traits and skills that I developed and honed through my years of mock trial. I also found lifelong friendships and memories that I cherish. I am thrilled to bring the same opportunity for success to CMU students.”

A year-round activity that requires dedication from all the team members, mock trial can teach problem-solving and improvisation skills, as well as how to prove arguments and communicate differently to different people, says Elwood. Students in mock trial also learn the ins and outs of the legal and justice system in order to compete, as competitions assign participants the roles of attorneys, witnesses, or combinations of the two. In preparing for tournaments, students have to read and become familiar with more than 300 pages of case materials and rule handbooks, then memorize certain information and exhibits, prepare and perfect speeches and lines of questioning, and be sure they are familiar enough with all the material that they can answer a question at a moment’s notice.

“In short, it is incredibly academically rigorous,” said Elwood.

It’s also a true team effort, she added, explaining that each member of a mock trial team needs to be prepared to change roles and that the team could be expected to spend up to 50 straight hours together on a competitive weekend in which they travel.

The traveling aspect won’t be one that the Central team gets to experience for a while, however, as all tournaments with the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) are to be held online for this academic year. That announcement was a vital one to getting the approval to form the team this fall, Elwood said, as the travel budget for the team was able to be cut entirely.

In its first competition, over the weekend of November 21, the CMU team didn’t need to travel but faced several complications, including technical difficulties that delayed the second round by almost two hours. Through all the trials, the team came out of the completely new experience with a pair of awards.

Central was awarded honorable mention for the Spirit of AMTA Award, dedicated to sportsmanship and voted on by the students in the competition. In addition, team captain Martina Florido won an Outstanding Attorney Award after being ranked the eighth-best in the tournament out of more than 150 competitors.

Elwood and the team are looking forward to adding to both their experience and their trophy case next semester.

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