STRATEGIES FOR TEACHING ABOUT MOCK TRIAL PROCEDURES


1. Have students brainstorm the order of events in a mock trial and list them on one side of the blackboard. On the other side of the board, list the steps in a mock trial as they actually occur, noting any errors or omissions in the students' list as you do so.

2. Once the whole trial process has been introduced, have students make a list or brainstorm and write on the board the steps in a trial, first from the plaintiff/prosecution's point of view, (e.g., opening statement, direct examination of P/P's witnesses, cross-examination of defense witnesses and closing arguments). Do the same from the defense perspective.

3. Have students check newspapers and magazines for articles that mention a trial that is currently being conducted. Past the articles to a large sheet of paper with the trial step, which is mentioned in the article, written in large letters at the top of the sheet. Have students post these around the classroom in their proper order.

4. Have students become familiar with the steps in a trial, the physical layout of a courtroom and the participants in a trial.

5. A courtroom visit is a good idea at this point (or after the group has begun working on the trial). Hold a debriefing session during the class period following the visit and/or have students write:

a. What part(s) of the trial did you observe?

b. What happened before the part(s) you observed?

c. What happened in the trial after your left?

List these on the board with the step of the trial that your group observed in the middle, and the "before" and "after" lists on either side.

6. Students should be instructed to watch a television program or see a movie having to do with a trial. Then they can discuss what the case was about, what parts of the trial they observed and whether the depiction of the trial procedure was accurate and realistic.

7. Invite a trial attorney or judge to the class to review basic trial procedure and describe different types of litigation, such as arbitration hearings, worker's compensation hearings, school board hearings and juvenile proceedings. Have the students discuss how and why do they differ from the basic civil and criminal trial procedure.

8. After general trial procedure has been covered in class, distribute the mock trial materials that you plan to use and have the students read them thoroughly. At this point you can either assign the roles of the various trial participants or wait until you have covered the rules of evidence.

(This also helps ensure that students will read all of the trial materials, instead of just reading those for their parts or sides of the case.)


Guidelines for Teachers

A. ROLE OF THE TEACHER

The teacher coach is expected to help the team members decide which students will play which parts in the mock trial, and to assist the students in playing those roles.

As part of the sizeable responsibility of acting as teacher coaches, teachers are responsible for the following areas:

Rules of the Program

All teachers and teams are expected to adhere to the rules, facts, law and all other materials provided in the Mock Trial Competition Case Materials.

Please read the rules before doing anything else.

Role Assignments
Team members should be strongly encouraged to select roles based on their interests and abilities, not on the basis of any gender or cultural stereotypes that might be drawn from the characterizations in the fact pattern. Note that males or females may play witnesses.

 

Team Preparation
Attorneys also will help coach each team. Teams should prepare both sides of the case and are strongly urged to arrange and conduct preliminary mock trials prior to meeting another school in the competition.

Preliminary trials only require one attorney to act as the presiding judge as it is not necessary to award points to the teams during these practice rounds. Your attorney coach may be able to help you obtain use of a courtroom, but classrooms or other facilities may also be used.

Education
Education of students is the primary goal of the Mock Trial Competition. Healthy competition helps to achieve this goal. However, teachers are reminded of their responsibility to keep the competitive spirit at a reasonable level. The reality of the adversary system is that one party wins and the other loses, and teacher should be sure to prepare their teams to be ready to accept either outcome in a mature manner. Teachers can help prepare students for either outcome by placing the highest value on excellent preparation and presentation, rather that winning or losing the trial.

Observers
Other classes, parents, and friends of the participants are welcome at attend the trials.

 

Arrival times
Teachers are responsible for getting their teams to the assigned courtroom 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the trial.


Suggestions for Teacher Coaches

This outline will provide you with some suggested guidelines for use in helping your student team prepare for the mock trial experience.

SUGGESTED PREPARATION TIME: 5-8 weeks of meeting several times/week

Find an attorney coach to work with your team:

Since attorneys have time limitations, they should be used as consultants when their expertise is needed but do not need to be present at all team activities or practices. As a consultant, the attorneys should advise students, but should not author any portion of the team's trial materials.

Contact your attorney coach as soon as possible to:

Before meeting with your attorney coach:

With your attorney coach, work on:

The following are some points to consider when developing your team strategy:

Other considerations:

Before your first scheduled trial in the mock trial competition (if entered):


Suggestions for Attorney Coaches

This outline will provide you with some suggested guidelines for use in preparing your student attorneys and witnesses for the mock trial competition.

Much as you will want to help the students, to point them in the right direction, and to give them the benefit of your experience, remember that the students and teachers will develop a better understanding of the case and learn more from the experience if the attorney-advisors do not dominate the preparation phase of the competition. The preparation phase of the contest is intended to be a cooperative effort of students, teacher and attorney coach.

Avoid (even the appearance of) "talking down" to students and/or stifling discussion through the use of complicated "legalese."

SUGGESTED PREPARATION TIME: At least five or six 2-hour sessions before first trial date

SUGGESTED MEETING PLACE: Meetings can take place at the school or at a home or office. If possible, one meeting should take place in a local courtroom to help students feel comfortable in a courtroom setting.

First Session:

Second Session:

Third Session:

Subsequent Sessions:

Final Session:

REMEMBER THAT TEAMS MUST PREPARE BOTH SIDES OF THE CASE.


Suggestions for Student Attorneys

This outline offers various "helpful hints" for preparing students to be attorneys in mock trials. Included are tips and techniques for both the preparation before trial and the presentation at trial of the opening statement, direct and cross-examinations, and closing argument.

General Suggestions:

Opening Statements:

Objective: To acquaint the judge with the case and outline what you are going to prove through witness testimony and the admission of evidence. Argument, discussion of law, or objections by the opposing attorney are not permitted.

Advice in Preparing:
What should be included:

a) Name of case.

b) Names of attorneys (you and your colleagues).

c) Name of client.

d) Name of opponent.

e) A short summary of the facts.

f) A clear and concise overview of the witnesses, testimony and physical evidence that you will present, stating how each will help prove your case; try to recount the story without naming which witnesses will tell what information.

g) Mention of the burden of proof (the amount of evidence needed to prove a fact) and who has it in this case.

h) Conclusion and request for relief.

What to avoid:

i) Too much detail, which can tire or confuse the court.

j) Exaggeration and overstatement.

k) Argument, which violates the basic function of the opening statement (i.e., to provide the facts of the case from your client's viewpoint).

Advice in presenting:

Other suggestions:

Direct Examination:

Objectives: To obtain information from favorable witnesses you call in order to prove the facts of your case; to present enough evidence to warrant a favorable verdict; to present facts with clarity and understanding; to present your witness to the greatest advantage; and to establish your witness' credibility.

Advice in preparing:

Advice in Presenting:

Other suggestions:

Cross-Examination:

Objectives: To make the other side's witnesses less believable in the eyes of the trier of fact; to negate your opponent's case; to discredit the testimony of your opponent's witnesses; and to discredit real evidence that has been presented.

Advice in Preparing:

Types of Questions to Ask:

Advice in Presenting:

Other Suggestions:

Closing Arguments:

Objective: To provide a clear and persuasive summary of: (1) the evidence you need to prove the case, and (2) the weaknesses of the other side's case.

Advice in Preparing:
What should be included:

Advice in Presenting:


Suggestions for Student Witnesses

Witnesses play a key role on the mock trial teams. While many students may consider the attorneys roles as more important, mock trial judges report that their decision depends as much on the witness' performances as on those of the attorneys. Many a trial has been won or lost on the witness stand.

General Suggestions:

Direct Examination:
Objective: To obtain information in order to prove the facts of your case.

Advice in Preparing:

Advice in Presenting:

Cross-Examination
Objective: To make the other side's case less believable in the eyes of the trier of fact.

Advice in Preparing:

Advice in Presenting:

How to Make the Most of Your Oral Presentation


Seating Posture

Participants should remember that from the elevated bench the judge has a good view of the entire courtroom. Your seating posture has a definite impact on the judge's impression of you. Attorneys especially need to be conscious of how they are seated. Sit straight but not so stiff as to be uncomfortable. Put your feet flat on the floor or cross your legs in a professional manner. Avoid nervous mannerisms, such as shaking your leg or tapping your pencil.

Speaking

All participants should speak loudly and enunciate each word, as microphones are not usually available.

Presenting opening and closing statements

Since these are extemporaneous speeches, attorneys should employ effective speech-making techniques:

Attorney questioning witnesses

Witnesses

While the judge deliberates

Courtroom Behavior

An important aspect of trial procedure, often overlooked in teaching about mock trials, is the courtroom decorum of the team. The following hints are intended to help mock trial participants understand some of the nuances of proper courtroom behavior:

Some of the Things Most Difficult for Team Members to Master

 

SOURCE: Adapted from A Guide for Conducting Mock Trials in the Classroom, Citizenship Law-Related Education Program for the Schools of Maryland, 1984.


[MT homepage] [application] [roster] [case] [tournament rules] [procedures][rules of evidence]
[prep team] [judge guidelines] [scoresheet] [eval criteria] [strategies] [Q and A]