Settling into a new model courtroom, Mock Trial spent an hour on Halloween night, Oct. 31, 2019, preparing for an upcoming tournament at University of Missouri – Kansas City. Criminal Justice Center room 117 is now the home of a comfortable new space for Missouri Southern Mock Trial.
The model courtroom is well-lit and furnished with enough seating to hold in excess of 30 people. Two long pews line the back of room 117, while to the right are a set of pews on risers for a jury.
A bench stands in front of five swiveling chairs for judges, and in the corner are hanging five black robes. The middle of the courtroom features a podium, as well as desks and chairs for the defense and prosecution.
The room is acoustically muted, which compliments the voices of students delivering oral arguments in the space. On the back wall are adorned the words “Justice Through Education.”
An official ribbon cutting ceremony will be held for the new courtroom at 10 a.m., Friday, Nov. 15.
Education was evident as students looked over extensive notes in their laptops while waiting for the meeting to be begin. Several minutes after four o’clock, Brenden Higashi, Head Coach of Mock Trial called the meeting to order.
He quickly started by reading off the list of students who are to participate in the tournament at UMKC.
In preparation for the tournament at UMKC, students on Southern’s Mock Trial team rehearsed arguments and testimonies relevant to their assigned characters. According to Higashi, each team is guaranteed to run two prosecutions and two defenses.
“What I’ve been playing is prosecution witness, which is typically an expert witness. And this time it’s a forensic pathologist,” said Brent Olson, Sophomore.
He has been a member of Mock Trial for two years. Olson explained that his part requires learning a lot of medical terms. For the defense, he will play an attorney and give the final argument on each case.
Higashi said that Mock Trial will be arguing The State of Midlands v. Jordan Ryder.
“Prosecutions will have the option to charge the defendant, Jordan Ryder, with either negligent manslaughter or aggravated murder,” Higashi said.
Impassioned arguments continued for about half-an-hour, with faculty offering praise and or advice after each performance.
And the performance element was clear, with much discussion pertaining to the pauses and inflections of the speaker. Special care was taken to find strong phrases which would catch the jury’s attention. “She is a mother, not a murderer!” echoed from the defense.
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Sophomore Marady Anderson, political science major, won a Top Witness award at a previous tournament.
“Mock Trial is a place where I get to meet with my friends,” said Anderson, “… but it is also good for puzzle solving – because you have to learn all these rules and case law, and you have to think of certain details of the case from a different mindset.”
This is Anderson’s second year of involvement with Mock Trial.
For Olson, Mock Trial has been a good continuation of activities which he was involved in during high school.
“I was involved in debate and theater in high school, so this was just sort of a natural outlet to come and do some sort of speaking, and some sort of performance,” he said.
Olson added that Mock Trial helps build confidence for other classes which require presentations.
Higashi emphasized the openness of Mock Trial to new members.
“We meet regularly, every Thursday at 4 o’clock, here in Justice Center 117,” Higashi said.
Mock Trial is not restricted to political science majors, and an accompanying class allows students to receive credit for participation.