Mock trial teams mix arguing, acting

Macalester College senior Marina Duvall gives her closing arguments at the Mock Trial Invitational at Hanson Hall on Sunday. The first annual event featured teams from four different states across the Midwest.

Jules Ameel

Macalester College senior Marina Duvall gives her closing arguments at the Mock Trial Invitational at Hanson Hall on Sunday. The first annual event featured teams from four different states across the Midwest.

Some University of Minnesota students spent Saturday embroiled in a three-hour libel trial on the West Bank. But these students, members of the UniversityâÄôs Mock Trial Association, only acted as attorneys and portrayed witnesses this weekend during the first Twin Cities Invitational Tournament. Fourteen teams of college mock trial students from the across the Midwest competed against each other for four rounds. In mock trial competition, teams made up of about eight students prepare to argue both sides of a legal case. Kimberly Mulroy , association president and an English studies senior, said while the University has had mock trial teams since 1995, itâÄôs never hosted a tournament . âÄúWe just happen to be the first ones crazy enough to undertake it,âÄù Mulroy said of herself and the other team officers. Only about a third of the team members who tried out in September made it onto one of the groupâÄôs three teams, Mulroy said. During August each year, the American Mock Trial Association releases to teams the case material used for competitions through March . In this yearâÄôs case, a gubernatorial candidate sues a news network, claiming that it broadcast a report falsely accusing him of murdering another candidate after a debate. Meanwhile, the news network denies the allegations and claims its report was truthful. âÄúWeâÄôre learning quite a bit about libel law,âÄù Mulroy said. In competition, judges score the teams based on speaking ability, composure, legal arguments, the characters they develop for witnesses and overall case strategy, Mulro y said. At the end of the tournament, teams are ranked by their total scores, Kellee Williams, the groupâÄôs treasurer and a marketing junior, said. Teammates assume the role of either attorneys or witnesses in cases. During trials, three students from each team play attorney and examine three of their teammates, who play their sideâÄôs witnesses. Nine witnesses are included in the case materials, but only six witnesses are presented in trial. Teams donâÄôt know which witnesses will be called on during competition until right before the trial . Attorneys have to be skilled in improvisation and think quickly on their feet, while witnesses have to develop their characters, employing props and acting out their roles, Mulroy said. Of the groupâÄôs members, about half are pre-law majors, Mulroy said. âÄúWe have a lot of CLA majors,âÄù Mulroy said, adding that team members are studying everything from political science and policy to psychology and journalism. Eric Albertson and Mary Russell , team captains with the University of Wisconsin-Superior , said their school had 14 students and two teams at the tournament. Mock trial team members develop public speaking, analytical, argumentative and presentation skills, Russell and Albertson said. Albertson, a pre-law junior, said mock trial is the best way to prepare for law school. âÄúItâÄôs actual practice and actual procedure,âÄù he said. Russell, an education major who also has a pre-law degree , said mock trial team members find themselves hooked once they join. âÄúItâÄôs hard to get people interested,âÄù she said, âÄúbut if you look at retainment, the majority of our team [members] have been in it three or four years, so through graduation.âÄù For this yearâÄôs tournament, the UniversityâÄôs mock trial group hosted 14 teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa , Mulroy and Stewart said. Some schools represented at the tournament include Hamline University and Macalester College. âÄúWe decided to keep it small this year, since it was our first,âÄù Mulroy said. âÄúNext year weâÄôre planning on expanding it.âÄù