Shippensburg University’s Mock Trial team faced five other schools at American University in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, winning two rounds of the regional competition, a first in the club’s history.
The team competed against Fordham University, Lincoln Center University, Brandeis University, Pace University and Temple University over the weekend of Feb. 3 and 4. Though they did not move on to the next round of competition, the members of the team believe what is most important is what they got out of the experience.
“What you get out of mock trial really, that’s the important part. Obviously, we all become really good friends. It also helps with critical thinking skills and is a great resume builder,” said mock trial member Matthew Kotroco.
The members of the mock trial teams and its academic adviser, criminal justice professor Stephanie Jirard, received the case from the American Mock Trial Association early in September, according to Kotroco.
This year’s case was fit for a TV crime drama, with elements of drugs and a love triangle all leading up to an attempted murder. Mock trial team member Josephine Petrucci said that each case given to the teams is a fictional case written by attorneys.
“They’re made-up cases based on things that could really happen,” said Petrucci. “It goes back and forth between civil and criminal so we had a civil one last year, criminal this year and then next year we’ll have civil.”
The team consists of at least 10 members, with three attorneys for defense and another three for prosecution. The remaining members act as witnesses.
“We like to have fun with our witnesses,” said mock trial member Stephen Stahl, who explained that the witnesses often dress up and assume the identity of the character they are playing. The attorneys also dress the part, with the women in suits and the men in suits and a tie.
Aside from having fun playing as their characters, the mock trial members also enjoy forming a bond with one another. The members meet for multiple hours each week. When it gets close to competition time, members are meeting almost five hours a day.
“By the time we hit February we all like each other, we’re all friends,” Kotroco said.
“It’s like we’re a little family,” Petrucci said.
While in Washington for the competition, the team members chose to relax and enjoy themselves when they were not in competition. Despite Jirard’s suggestion that the students go to bed early the night before the competition, the students ordered pizza and listened to music as they continued to bond in their hotel room.
Before each competition, the mock trial members used some relaxation techniques to calm their nerves. The students yelled, did tongue twisters and shook their hands about to relieve excess stress.
“It was easier to be more expressive after the exercises,” Petrucci said.
The mock trial experience is more than just fun, it can also help build bridges to future success.
“My whole personal statement for law school was about mock trial, and they must have loved it because I got into a lot of places,” Kotroco said.
The mock trial club is open to all majors, and meets in Shippen Hall at 3:40 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.
“It’s hard work,” Petrucci said, “but it’s worth it.”