This March, the University’s Mock Trial Team A will compete in the Championship Qualifiers hosted by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). The team, led by President Jordan Lyons ’12 and Vice Presidents Kyra Sutton ’13 and Mari Saakjan ’12, is the first in the University’s history to have the honor of participating, as Wesleyan has never gone further than Regionals. In the last competition, Lyons and Sutton won attorney awards, while Saakyan received a witness award.
Lyons said that the team had been practically non-existent before the 2008-2009 school year, when it was revamped by two seniors who created three team programs—A, B, and C. This year there are two programs, with Team B led by Dana Leib ’14 and Caitlin Dunnington ’14.
In the competition, university and college teams are given a fictitious trial with exhibits, the relevant law, and the statements or depositions of various witnesses. This year’s trial involves a drunk-driving case. Each team’s task is then to create a case for the prosecution and the defense, with three attorneys and three witnesses on each side. The team does not know which side will be presenting until the moment of the trial. The University’s Team A has seven people, some of whom must participate on both sides due to team size limitations.
“Most teams will have some people playing roles on multiple sides,” Sutton said. “But our team actually has a lot—one witness on a side and one attorney on the other side kind of cross over.”
The team is student-run, student-funded, and does not get professional help from lawyers or judges, in contrast to some of their competitors. The competition in Wesleyan’s region is also particularly difficult, as teams from the Ivy League and other NESCAC schools are included in their conference.
“We are going to be contending with the best teams,” Sutton said.
The team stressed the challenging improvisational aspect of Mock Trial, as well as the need to create flexible and creative arguments that surprise the judges and the other teams.
“This is basically how you get diversity in terms of case theories,” Saakjan said. “The kind of cases schools present [differ], because with a different witness you get something different that contributes to this case, so it is not monotone.”
Lyons expressed his excitement and surprise at the team’s success.
“Really I would say we’re just really happy to have made it this far,” he said. “We weren’t expecting this at all.”
The Championship Qualifiers will be held at Pace University Law School in White Plains, NY on March 10-11.