The air in the courtroom is tense enough to be cut with the delicate touch of a knife, and tensions are raised high, both the prosecution and the defense ready to argue to the death. The jury is listening intently, and the judge is watching carefully. The attorneys shuffle their notes anxiously, and the witnesses look on nervously.
The verdict decides everything, and they are ready to argue it down. Objections are being called, and the string pulls tighter.
Everything is on the line- but, wait? This isn’t your typical trial in the courtroom, but one with all the new freshmen? These are the student-led mock trials that were recently enacted by the freshmen as one of their newest competencies.
Preparation for the Mock Trials
The class of 2023 have recently started and finished their student-led mock trials. The point of the mock trials were to build student connections with each other, pushing scholars to work in a group environment, and using their argumentative skills in order to convince the jury, their classmates, of the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
The scholars were each given a different case created by the Bar Association, and tasked on what they were supposed to be, whether defense or prosecution, but it was their job to decide the roles, and get the job done. As the school constantly preaches, and prepares us to face reality, they weren’t given directions as of what they were supposed to do completely, but were supposed to follow a script, and finish accordingly. It was up to them to decide the roles, and when to meet up in order to practice for the cases. The teachers stepped back and let them take charge, with a delicate balance between complete freedom, and being bombarded with rules.
This teaches an independence that you have to part with from middle school, and as a scholar who’s been here for a while, you know that very well. Everything is up to you now, and you have to take responsibility for your actions as well.
The scholars spent around 3 weeks preparing for the trial, and the case files each had around 90 pages of information to read through, and they had to do a lot of prep work and practice beforehand.
A few weeks ago, from October 2nd to the 4th the trials took place during the freshman’s english class, in the theater for the Jimenez Village, and in the OMNI room for the Creen Village. There was a different case each day, with a different verdict from a new jury each day as well. The judges, of course, were the English teachers, Mrs. Creen, and Mrs. Jimenez. The three cases were: Jordan Brooks VS The State of Florida, Alex Buckley VS The State of Illinois, and Samantha Snape VS The State of Mississippi.
Why are the mock trials done, and how do they benefit scholars?
When asked about how the trials benefit scholars that are performing and preparing for the trials, Mrs. Creen responded with, “This was the first public speaking competency, so I know for a lot of scholars, it was just being able to break that ice, and being able to get out in front of people. It was mainly focused on the research element of using research to support claims, and public speaking area.”
Mrs. Jimenez added in with, “This was our first big group assignment. The big thing was to communicate, organize your thoughts, plan ahead, and really try to investigate what though need. There was a lot of, ‘What things do I need to do?’ We tried to make them feel like they were attorneys preparing for a case.”
These skills that we develop in the mock trials not only prepare the scholars for their future, and build a proper work ethic that all the internships look for in incoming students, but they also build their skills for new projects, and prepare them for the upcoming competencies as well.
But the real question is: Why are the trials even being done? Why can’t we just do an argument competency instead of having to prepare for an actual trial?
The trials promote 3 things that can’t be achieved through a normal assignment:
The first thing that the mock trials promote is that they promote public speaking. This is very important in the realm of the ‘real world.’ In almost every single job that you can have, you have to publicly speak, whether in front of crowds or with a small amount of people. This really encourages scholars to break out of their shell, and work on being able to hone these important life skills.
The second thing that the trials promote is teamwork, or group work. All internships’ requirements is for the scholar to exemplify being able to work well in a team, befcu aw this asset is really important in their overall success in the workforce. Being able to promote teamwork for their first big group project, this really prepares scholars for all the next group projects that will be coming up.
Last, but not least, they also promote one of the job options that are in the workforce. This gives a scholar an example of what it would be like if they were actually be a lawyer, or an actual attorney being able to prepare for a trial. This gives students an insight into being in a trail, or being in a similar job, in order for them to know if they would really want to pursue a job similar to this. This gives students, especially the freshmen a way to for them to experience an option that they’ll soon have.
With all the tension that was going on in this mock courtroom, the question is, ‘How well did they do?’
The feedback is positive, both the teachers, who were the judges and the students believing that the trials had gone really well.
Impressed, Mrs. Creen states, “They did so amazing! I was really proud of the way that they did the mock trials. I’m convinced that there are some kids that are professional lawyers, and that they’re 30 instead of actually 15.... They knew their stuff.”
Mrs. Jimenez states that, “Oh they did amazing! It was interesting to see how, depending on the group, to see how both prosecution and defense both looked at the same piece of evidence, and what they came up with what they were given. I think the cross examination piece was the most exciting piece ...It was a nice little catch of, ‘Woah- They really knew their stuff.’”
Teresa Chatterton, a freshman, who was a closing prosecution attorney for the Jordan Brooks VS The State of Florida also stated that, “I was pretty nervous, but I think our group did pretty well.”
Michelle Luna, a freshman who was the opening defense attorney for the Alex Buckley VS The State of Illinois states in a lighthearted tone that, “I was definitely nervous before the trials. I memorized all the lines that I was supposed to do the day before, but as soon as I got on stage I forgot them all.”
What do students think?
Teresa Chatterton mentioned that, “It wasn’t that hard since we were able to write down what we had to say, it was easy to just read it off… I was nervous for the trial at first, but they were fun later on.”
Michelle Luna added on with, “I did like my mock trials, and they weren’t as suspenseful as I thought they would be. They were still a lot of fun.”
The mock trials seemed like a daunting task when they first came to it, but with just the right amount of preparation, and teamwork, the scholar was able to get the job done.
The scholars, Teresa Chatterton and Michelle Luna, both have a similar opinion on their thoughts about the mock trials, and both developed some type of teamwork bonding, and some independence, which is very valuable.
They both agreed that they were quite nervous beforehand, and once they were up to doing the task, it wasn’t as bad as they thought it was going to be, and did extremely well. Although Michelle does mention that she had forgotten her lines, nonetheless, she did very well in her job as the opening defense attorney.
In order to prepare for upcoming assignments that are large projects or require a lot of preparation, the scholars and ELA teachers at DLA all gave very similar advice to doing well on future projects. Keep your ears out for this scholars!
Read up, and know all the information that you’ll need for the case, or any large projects really well.
Don’t waste your preparation time, or procrastinate, or else you might have to scramble in order to complete it. Remember to meet your deadlines
Prepare thoroughly the first time that it is given, and make sure that you’re very specific.
Use outside resources, by looking at the articles, and things that would give you a feel about what you’re preparing for.
The freshmen have worked very hard to make sure that they’ve been well prepared for their first major project, and have done quite well in working on the mock trials. Although it was quite nerve wracking to go up to talk in front of people they still had a lot of fun.
I look forward to seeing more and more of their new accomplishments, as we progress through the year!