Staging a Mock Trial

Some Advice ~

Do not merely replicate the trial from the book. That becomes a play. We need to take an issue described in the book and devise a scenario where the outcome is not necessarily a foregone conclusion, a hate crime situation for example. It needs to be a scenario that speaks to the lives of teens.

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Mock Trials

Mock Trial Tips From An Attorney:

For several years, I assisted the preparation and presentation of mock
trials for area school students. A three-coach system was used with one
attorney working with the students who would be the prosecutors/plaintiffs,
a second attorney who would be working with the defendant's attorneys and
the third coaching all the witnesses who would appear during the trial.

First, we would discuss issues of compelling public interest, topics which
would be of some interest to the students who were presenting the mock
trial. Once that topic was identified, we would do legal research to find a
case which exemplified that topic/issue. In the first couple of years, we
would follow relatively closely the facts of a particular case. The reality that a court had rendered a decision in the case seemed to diminish the curiosity of the students and limited their exploration of reaching another conclusion potentially inconsistent with the court's ruling. Because of this experience, thereafter no single case was used as the model for the facts.

Second, we would develop a general outline/script of the important issues
that we wanted the students to explore. I would then prepare a detailed
summary of the testimony that each witness would present. These summaries
were circulated to the coaches so that they could request minor changes. Caution must be exercised at this stage so that a coach for one side does not insert additional facts which make it more likely that the student attorneys representing a particular side will prevail. A coach might try to gain an unfair advantage for the student attorneys by adding additional evidence which would assist the students in winning the mock trial.

I would then meet with each of the witnesses in turn telling them his or her role, explaining what the essential testimony was and allowing some latitude for providing details such as employment and other extraneous information that is frequently presented during the course of a trial.

The factual statements of each witness, and the names of the students who
would be presenting that testimony were presented to the student attorneys.
The purpose in doing so was to allow an opportunity to polish the direct
testimony which would be presented for the prosecution or defense. All
three coaches encouraged the student/witnesses to present their testimony in
a dramatic, lively fashion so that the presentation would actually be of
some interest to the students who would serve as the jury panel.

The coaches spent considerable time explaining to the student attorneys the
elements which they were attempting to prove in the case. Instruction was
also given regarding the appropriate manner of presenting both direct
testimony and conducting cross examination. Without question the most
challenging role in most of the trials was the role given to the student
attorneys who had to have a thorough understanding of both the legal
principles as well as the anticipated testimony of all the witnesses.

At the time of presentation, the coaches were present in the mock trial so that they could respond to any last minute inquiries. Area judges were
very helpful in volunteering to conduct the mock trials, providing instructions to the student jury and assisting with the flow of the trial so that any objections were resolved and the case was fully heard and submitted to the jury within a reasonable time.

Because typically there had been no prior meeting with the students who
served on the jury, I would assist the student jury in understanding and
performing their role during deliberations. The role of the jury was
expanded beyond merely reaching a verdict to include encouraging the
students on the jury to express their thoughts about what they had heard
once they returned to the courtroom and the verdict was read. In this way
there was an opportunity for a brief forum.

Jeffrey T. Orndorff

Attorney at Law