MOCK TRIAL Mock Trial Prepares for Nationals By Amanda McGrath and Charlotte Nichols Hoya Staff Writers

For the second consecutive year, two squads from the Georgetown ock Trial team have advanced to the national level of competition.

The National Championship of the Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament consists of the top 64 teams out of over 600 colleges and universities that compete in 20 regional tournaments held across the country. One Georgetown team, captained by Grant Garber (SFS ’02), will compete in the Gold Flight National Championship Tournament that will be held in Des Moines, Iowa the first weekend of April. A second Georgetown team, captained by Lauren Salvati (COL ’04), participated in the Silver Flight National Intercollegiate Tournament, a consolation event held in St. Paul, Minn.

The team headed for the Gold Flight competition placed second at the Eastern Regional Tournament, just behind the Yale team. Chiara Spector (COL ’02), a member of the Gold Flight team said they were aiming to finish in the top ten at the national competition. “One thing I think we’ve all learned is that it’s a subjective competition, because it’s decided by one judge, so I think nobody can really go into it expecting to win,” Spector said.

The team that competed at the Silver Flight national competition had taken seventh place in the regional competition. “The aryland region is actually one of the toughest regions,” team member Kirk Lohmueller (COL ’05) said. At Silver Flight the team finished 2-5-1 – a disappointing result, according to Lohmueller, who said they were “thrown off” when blizzards delayed their travel plans and they arrived in St. Paul just three hours before the first competition. Their record was also marred, Lohmueller said, when a judge mismarked her ballot, which cost the team a win.

“One of the judges made a mistake on her ballot, but they couldn’t review the case to change the outcome,” he said. Salvati said nothing could be done to change the score once the error had been found. “We found that there were inconsistencies between [the judge’s] scores and her comments. She had made a stray mark on the ballot that looked like a one (on a 1-10 scale) for one of our witness’ scores, but she named him one of the trial’s top three witnesses, so it was obviously an error,” she said.

Nevertheless, Salvati said she was proud of her team. “The team performed much better than our record would indicate. Our performances were not always perfect, but the ballots we lost were extremely close, and most could have gone either way,” she said.

The mock trial team has improved its record over the years without the guidance of a coach and without the on-campus support most other teams have, say Georgetown team members.

“We’re one of the only programs around that doesn’t have a coach,” Spector said. “Other schools have $40,000 budgets and three full-time coaches. Last year we had two teams go to nationals, and the fact that we made it again this year kind of solidifies that we have talent.”

Garber agreed that the team has overcome obstacles and said they are becoming a formidable opponent on the mock trial circuit.

“In the last two years, we’ve become a much more competitive program and are aiming for our first top 10 finish at Gold this year,” Garber said. He attributed the improved performance by the Georgetown team to the increase in competitive high school programs as well as the momentum established by the team at previous competitions.

“When people come to Georgetown, they’re ready to step in and contribute right away. Both this year and last year, we’ve had some outstanding freshmen. Also, I think it’s a matter of success breeding success. We were very surprised to qualify for Gold last year, so this year we came in with the goal of returning already in mind. As a result, we’re not satisfied with just qualifying – we want to be successful at nationals,” Garber said.

Spector said last year the two Georgetown teams participating in the national competition did not get satisfactory results. “We definitely didn’t finish near the top and the other Georgetown team didn’t even place,” Spector said.

Spector said there were more new members this year than in years past. The group had to cut about 20 people before forming the four teams that make up the organization.

Students competing in mock trial try a fictional court case provided each year by the American Mock Trial Association. Each team can have up to 10 members, four attorneys and six witnesses. Teams competing against one another argue opposite sides of the case. Attorneys present opening and closing statements and call three witnesses per side. Two judges preside over each trial to score the teams and rule on objections.

“Every September we receive the case materials and spend the next five months working both as a team and individually to put together a case theory, write witness examinations and practice our presentations,” Garber explained.

Attorneys are awarded points based on their opening and closing statements and on their direct and cross examinations. Witnesses also receive scores for their performances. The judges add up the individual scores and an overall team score to determine the winners.

Garber said mock trial was a great introduction to the practice of law. “Mock trial is a great way not only to meet some very bright and fun people, but to also learn the ins and outs of trial law. In fact, I’ve sat in on some law classes in the course of visiting law schools this semester, and I’ve been amazed at how well mock trial has helped me grasp some of the basic legal concepts brought up in these classes,” he said.

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