Stillwater has caught mock trial fever


Photo By Natalie Gjermo

Seniors Amy Crea and Carly Johnson study over practice cases for the new Mock Trail team.

Annie McHugh

Competitive mock trials have been growing in popularity in recent years, and this trending competition has finally made its way to Stillwater Area High School. The brand new Stillwater Mock Trial Team is already up and running, and getting ready for their upcoming season.

The team was formed because of the desire of two students, juniors Rachel Hartwig and Mitchell Sell. The idea came to them last year in their law and justice class. With the help of a few teachers this idea manifested into reality.

Last year, Hartwig and Sell both participated in a mock trial at the Washington County Courthouse for social studies teacher Mike Kaul’s law and justice final.

“I was a criminal defense attorney so I gave the opening statement, describing the story and the facts of the case. I also direct examined my witness, Mitchell, and used his testimony to support our clients innocence. Then I also cross examined a witness of the prosecution to find the cracks in their case,” said Hartwig.

After the final, Kaul informed the two of the league for which they eagerly organized a team and began preparing for the 2013-2014 season.

“We haven’t had any trials yet; competition starts in January. The case was released over MEA weekend, and teams have until January to prep for the trials. There are two scrimmages during the first few weeks of January. Then regional competition starts. There are 5 rounds before one team from each region advances to the state tournament in March,” said Sell.

To prepare for the upcoming trials, 11 students meet every Monday for two hours at Eckberg Lammers, a law office located in Stillwater.

“We meet with the attorneys and they go over what elements need to be included in an opening, closing, direct, cross, etc. We work on them outside of practice and present in front of everyone, they give us advice and we keep reworking it all until we get a polished product. We will also do scrimmages against our own team and other schools,” said senior Amy Crea.

The team worked with the attorneys at Eckberg Lammers to decide who was best fit for each role. Members were assigned the role of either witness or attorney.

 “The case this year is a civil case. During the trial, three students act as attorneys who will question witnesses of both the prosecution and defense. three students play the role of witnesses on whatever side, plaintiff or defense, the team is trying. We have separate groups of students trying each side. At tournaments, teams try both sides of the case in separate trials throughout the day,” said Sell.

Nobody will know exactly how the trial is going to play out until competition day.

“I am a plaintiff attorney and a defense witness. If our school is picked to be the plaintiff, I will do a direct and cross examination along with the closing statement. However, if our school is picked to be defense I will act as a witness. I will be sworn in, and one of our defense attorneys will do direct examination. Then the opposing school will do cross on me, I will have an idea of what they will ask me, but will not know anything exactly. I then will have to try my best to help the defense during cross and not let our sides weaknesses show. Witness’ have to do everything from memory and attorneys can use some notes,” said Crea.

The rules for the competition are strict but simple.

“Every high school in the state of Minnesota is given the same trial, witness statements, evidence, the complaint and answer, what is being sued for, what the accident was, ect. This case was announced on October 18th. You can only use what is given and can’t add any outside details or evidence in,” said Crea.

Everyone is feverishly awaiting January for the excitement of the trials to begin.