MACON – Mercer's mock trial team recently completed its most successful season to date, as – for the first time in eight years – the University was represented by two groups of students at the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) Regional Tournament.
Mercer's first team earned three wins against five losses, competing against the likes of Spelman, Georgia Tech and Washington and Lee at the University of South Carolina in February. The second team didn't fare as well, earning only one win, but it mostly consisted of students who were new to mock trial and earned valuable experience to prepare them for future competitions.
Junior Jordan Price, a political science major from Forsyth, won his second consecutive Outstanding Attorney Award at the regional tournament, and Michael Smith, a sophomore law and public policy and economics double-major from Conyers, received an Outstanding Witness Award and tied for the highest point total of any witness in the tournament.
Prior to regionals, Mercer traveled to Kennesaw State, Wake Forest and the University of West Florida for tournaments. At UWF, the first team finished with a season-high five wins and was selected as an honorable mention. Sophomore Montana Dean, a philosophy major from Richmond Hill, won an Outstanding Attorney Award, and freshman Griffin Kish, from Atlanta, won an Outstanding Witness Award.
Other highlights from this past season included an Outstanding Witness Award for senior Chas Mann, a history major from Kathleen, at Kennesaw State; an Outstanding Witness Award for Smith at Wake Forest; and Outstanding Attorney Awards for Price at both KSU and WFU.
“I am very proud of the dedication and accomplishments of these students. They put in a tremendous amount of time and effort, both individually and as groups, to prepare for and compete in these tournaments,” said Dr. Lori Johnson, who serves as the team's coach in addition to her roles as associate professor of political science and director of the Law and Public Policy Program.
Mercer's team began in 2009 with one freshman, Stephen Antalis, who wanted to participate in mock trial at the University. By 2012, the team had grown to the point that it hired a local attorney to serve as its coach, and one year later, Dr. Johnson took on that role.
“We have been working to establish a strong undergraduate mock trial program at Mercer, and having two teams competing at regionals this year was an important milestone in that effort,” said Dr. Johnson.
A mock trial team typically consists of eight to 10 students who fill the roles of lawyers and witnesses in a trial. AMTA alternates between criminal trials one year and civil trials the next. All teams use the same case materials, which usually include affidavits of eight or nine possible witnesses, indictments or legal complaints, exhibits that might be used as evidence, summaries of case law and evidence rules.
Lawyers present opening statements and closing arguments, as well as conduct direct and cross-examination of witnesses. Witnesses must know all the information about the case and their role, and are encouraged to develop a character that supports their side of the case.
Each team must have lawyers and witnesses prepared to present both sides of the case. Some of the key strategic decisions teams must make include what legal theory of the case it will argue, what its theme will be, which witnesses it will call and how it will try to undermine the arguments and witnesses of the opposition.