“I have a question,” interjects an attorney before the judge issues a ruling on the objection, “can we exclude expert witnesses from sequestration under rule 615 by using rule 703 governing expert testimony?” The judge pauses reflectively at the question posed by the attorney, a faint glimmer of pride shining his eyes. The attorney, a 19 year old communication studies major from Kansas State University, the judge an attorney from Kansas City and one of the coaches for the Kansas State University college mock trial team.
College mock trial allows undergraduate students to experience legal education like no other student activity available even at the law school level. Each year the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) publishes a detailed case complete with statutory law, case law, witness statements, expert reports and several pieces of evidence. Students are tasked with selecting three of the witnesses provided, determine which pieces of evidence to enter and develop a unique theory by which to argue the case. AMTA alternates annually between civil and criminal cases.
Students with mock trial experience enter law school with a commanding knowledge of evidentiary procedure, how to interpret legal statutes, how to write witness examinations and how to deliver opening and closing arguments. Not only do students have a clear leg up on peers at the law school level, they also gain an advantage against future colleagues at the attorney level, many of whom lack the confidence in the courtroom that is built up after years of mock trial experience.
In early fall 2008 Dr. LeAnn Brazeal motivated the students in her Advanced Trial Advocacy class to excel by promising the top students in the class a chance to compete in an AMTA mock trial tournament. However, when the time came to select the students for competition, it was evident that all wanted to participate and none should be excluded. What had started as an extracurricular goal quickly blossomed into a new student organization: The KSU Mock Trial Club.
At their very first tournament the KSU Mock Trial returned with an award for best witness, the first of many best witness or best attorney awards the team would win over the next four years. KSU Alums Zachery Roland, Jon Simpson and Nikki Marcotte and current students Terrence Ogren, Ryan Reed and Torrey Peterson have all been recognized for outstanding performances in AMTA sponsored tournaments. KSU placed fourth at the very first regional AMTA tournament held at Washburn University, qualifying for the Open Round National Championship Series (ORCS) held in St. Louis. In 2013 the KSU Mock Trial Varsity Team again earned a bid to the prestigious St. Louis ORCS held at Washington University, winning a Best Attorney and Best Witness award along the way.
At the 2013 ORCS, the KSU Mock Trial Team won a best witness award and the sole spirit of AMTA award, given to the team that best exemplifies the professionalism, prose and sportsmanship expected of true AMTA champions.
Recently, the Mock Trial Club has begun a series of educational seminars to give students the tools to become great trial attorneys even if their schedules do not allow time for mock trial participation. The seminars, taught exclusively by members of the trial team, explain the fundamentals of evidence, objections and trial procedure.
Four years since the creation of the team by Dr. Brazeal, the KSU Mock Trial Team has tripled in size and taken on three superb coaches to help students understand the legal elements of each case. With the continuing support of the university, community and alumni the KSU Mock Trial team will continue to flourish and eventually shed the trappings of a student run club to become a well-recognized student competition team, the likes of which have gained great fame for KSU Department of Communication Studies. The KSU Mock Trial aims to carry on the proud Wildcat tradition of excellence in academic speaking competition. KSU Mock Trial has the talent and drive to grace the national stage and earn a seat in prestige alongside KSU Debate and Forensics teams.
For more information about the Mock Trial Team, visit KSU Comm Studies.