Mock trial is both an extra curricular activity and class offered by the Department of Political Science, and consists of a time-controlled simulation of an actual trial. Students will prepare work as attorneys and witnesses for both the plaintiff/prosecution and the defense. Following opening statements, the plaintiff and defense each call three witnesses. Attorneys conduct direct examinations of their own witness and cross-examine the witnesses called by the other team. Attorneys can object to testimony and evidence by applying and arguing rules of evidence. Trials are concluded with closing arguments.
Mock trial students prepare for competitions against colleges and universities across the country. Performances are judged by attorneys or law school students. The case is provided by the American Mock Trial Association and includes rules of court, rules of evidence and affidavits from a dozen different witnesses. Together, these materials define the parameters of the exercise.
Teams must evaluate the witness statements and determine which witnesses to call for the plaintiff and defense sides of the case. Typically there are more witnesses than can be used in any one trial. This requires each team to assess the positives and negatives of each witness, all of whom have serious vulnerabilities on cross examination. Students need to familiarize themselves with all witness statements and prepare questions that will maximize utility to their side of the case.
Students develop skills that not only help prospective lawyers, but also help students learn how to present and refine arguments, use facts and evidence, and critically assess claims made by others.
Mock Trial requires critical thinking, effective public speaking, confidence, the capacity to think on one’s feet, and knowledge and application of trial advocacy. Mock trial also requires teamwork. Every case presents challenges and choices related to legal strategy and presentation. Team members have to develop a consensus about their case strategy and work together to be successful. This teamwork and other trial preparation activities create a valuable opportunity to develop collaboration and leadership skills.
Mock trial prepares for intercollegiate tournaments by competing in scrimmages against schools such as Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, and Valparaiso University. WMU typically travels to four or five tournaments a season, with tournaments in Cleveland, Ohio, Columbus, Ohio South Bend, Indiana, and many others.
Tournaments consist of four trials, most often two on Saturday and two on Sunday. Each trip lasts from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening. Students travel, eat meals, and stay in hotels together. Travel expenses, team meals, and hotel rooms are paid for by Western Michigan University.
Mock trial history
The mock trial season begins the first week of fall semester in September and lasts into March or April.