The Uncertain Verdict in Mock Trial


In the courtroom, the atmosphere is tense. With the witness sitting nervously across from the plaintiff, the prosecutors prepare for direct-examination. Meanwhile, the defense attorneys wait listening expectantly as they gear up for cross-examination. To the members of Mock Trial, this familiar scene is one that they have experienced many times.

As one of the leading after-school competition clubs at DMAE, Mock Trial, overseen by Law and Public Safety Program Manger Roslyn Powell, has taken the school by storm through its challenging cases and realistic court scenarios. With the trials being presided over by two judges who have backgrounds in the law field, there is no question that the members, who are split into either the prosecution or defense teams, feel the pressure to win their case. Still, for these future attorneys and prosecutors, the complex cases are far from predictable with most never leaning towards a certain verdict.

“The cases we do are interesting because there’s always a lot of twists and turns,” said sophomore Dylan Majsiak, vice president of the Mock Trial Club. “They are all really arguable and it’s hard to predict a guaranteed winner. Either side can defend their case and have a chance of winning.”

This year, the latest case for the Mock Trial members was State v. Sid Sawyer with the prosecutors claiming Sid guilty of intentionally crashing a car into a tree and subsequently killing his sister, Cathy. Even with the evidence of the case laid out for the members, the case could quickly turn in favor of either side, which is why preparation is key to a successful trial.

“You really don’t know what the other side is going to say so you have to be prepared to know the case inside and out,” said Geraldine Escandon, president of the club.

She explained that affidavits, written statements made by the witnesses, are an important part of preparation and were particularly helpful in last week’s court session as well as preparing with her fellow members.

Yet, collective teamwork is not the only thing that the club emphasizes in such a trial despite the fact that members must work together on a specific case.

“Although Mock Trial is basically a team effort, in the end, you’re on your own. Your performance can alter the entire team’s outcome,” said sophomore Giannina Garcia, a witness for the defense in the Sid Sawyer case.

In fact, an individual’s contribution to the case is so important that lack of preparation or even poor cooperation could cause the jury to side with the other team. Unlike some real-life cases, which may lean towards an obvious verdict even before the case starts, the cases within Mock Trial are a true test of the students’ abilities to defend their side, and not necessarily a test to see if a certain verdict is reached.

“The people who write up the case don’t want to give any side an advantage,” said Ms. Powell, the teacher advisor for Mock Trial. “They want either side to be able to win which is why winning is based on the participant’s skill, not the ultimate verdict of the jury.”

With this in mind, the Mock Trial members are actively getting ready to resume their trial for State v. Sid Sawyer case. While winning the case would be a sweet victory to either the prosecution or defense team who both worked hard to prepare, doing their best is more important to the members than reaching a specific verdict.

So, with the words of a judge, this case, regarding the unpredictable trials that bring out the best in the Mock Trial team, is about to be adjourned.