Shippensburg University’s mock trial team took on the regional competition in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4 and 5, coming home with an award for an outstanding witness.
The 10 members along with coach and criminal justice professor Stephanie Jirard departed for the competition Friday evening and stayed in a hotel for the weekend.
All of the funds were provided by members of the SU Foundation and the Provost’s Office.
The competition was held by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). AMTA was founded in 1985 and has been used as the governing body for the collegiate mock trials, according to collegemocktrial.org.
This year’s case was hosted by American University.
SU’s mock trial team has participated in several competitions since 2005, and was the only state school that participated this year among other large name schools such as Villanova University, Allegheny College, Gettysburg College and many others.
The teams are given a random number so when the judges are scoring them, they do not know the school’s name to keep it as fair as possible. The competition also ensures fairness by pairing teams with schools that have similar records.
Local lawyers from the area participate and act as judges in the trial to help make the mock trial as realistic as possible.
This year’s mock trial was a civil case concerning employment discrimination between professional writer Riley Winter v. TBD Inc., which is an online magazine.
At the trials, the functions are scored and each point adds up toward the overall team score, which will result in their win or loss and if they will progress to the next round. The rounds last approximately three hours.
The people who play the roles of the “attorneys” and “witnesses” in the cases are encouraged to engage in certain behaviors that are listed on a sheet, which will correlate with their points. Students also dress in character to make it as realistic as possible.
The trial begins with the opening statements from the plaintiff and the defendant. After the opening statements, witnesses come forward and the trial concludes properly with closing statements from both sides.
At the end of the trials, participants can win awards for outstanding witness or outstanding attorney. One of SU’s mock trial members, Stephen Stahl, won an outstanding witness award.
Although SU’s mock trial team fell short from winning the competition, Jirard has high hopes for the future.
“My goal is to hit the ground running and make it to nationals,” Jirard said.
Jirard also finds the mock trials to be beneficial even for those who do not have an interest in law.
“Even if you don’t want to go to law school, it’s a wonderful experience to improve your public speaking and critical thinking,” Jirard said.
In addition, students also gain knowledge in legal practices and procedures in a courtroom.
Jirard and the team are seeking Student Government recognition to make the mock trial team an official club on campus. The club would be called Robbie Oberly Mock Trial Club in honor of a former member who died of brain cancer during his years in law school.
“I want to give thanks to everyone that has helped us,” Jirard said.
The SU mock trial team will be hosting a talent show in April to raise money.
Any student interested in learning more information or joining the mock trial team can contact Stephanie Jirard at SAJira@ship.edu.