Barrett student Elana Quint, president of Sun Devil Mock Trial team

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October 2, 2017

Elana Quint will have practically no free weekends from now until well into the spring. The Barrett Honors College junior majoring in philosophy will be busy researching cases and practicing legal arguments as president of the Arizona State University Sun Devil Mock Trial team.

Sun Devil Mock Trial team

Members of the Sun Devil Mock Trial team are hoping to compete nationally next spring.

The team meets every Wednesday and Saturday to prepare their case and practice for competitions.

“The preparation required to succeed in Mock Trial is deliberate, meaningful, and highly focused. It changes the way you approach problems by practicing critical analysis and applying creative interpretations of legal argument” Quint said. 

Quint has been a member of Sun Devil Mock Trial for three years and saw its membership dwindle.

This summer she made it her mission to increase membership by networking, creating a website, sending emails, and making phone calls. After tryouts by prospective members, the team now has 37 members overall, with five trial teams and seven coaches, the largest in ASU history.

The mock trial team hopes to advance through local and regional competitions held under the auspices of The American Mock Trial Association in order to make it to the 34th AMTA National Championship Tournament in Minneapolis, Minn. in April 2018.

In mock trial, teams of students from universities throughout the United States receive a case from AMTA and work in teams acting as lawyers by researching relevant case law, interviewing witnesses, preparing evidence, and arguing in a court setting. Mock trial tournaments are judged by attorneys and judges on factors such as how well arguments are developed, how evidence is used, presentation skills, and knowledge of case law and rules of evidence.

The ASU Mock Trial teams compete in two to three tournaments per semester. Case material can total up to 150 pages and alternates between criminal and civil cases each year, according to Chris Doran, Sun Devil Mock Trial co-head coach.  

The case this year is a criminal case called State of Midlands v. Dylan Hendricks. The case is about a man charged with attempted first-degree murder of his girlfriend’s husband. Throughout the year AMTA releases case changes to keep competition interesting.

Doran and other coaches help prepare team members by teaching them trial rules of evidence, modeled after the federal rules of evidence. Students also learn how to handle each part of a mock trial as if it were an actual trial.

Students of diverse majors compose the ASU mock trial team. According to Doran, SDMT members have majors in engineering, computer science, dance, and business along with pre-law. Students have different reasons for participating in mock trial; some want to improve their public speaking or acting skills and play roles such as witnesses, others are in it to learn trial procedure.

For pre-law students, “it teaches you how to be a lawyer before you even step foot in your first law class,” said Courtney Barger, treasurer of the ASU mock trial team. “People learn skills that are directly applicable to their careers.”

Story by Ranjani Venkatakrishnan, Barrett Honors College student majoring in journalism

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