Mock Trial team competes, dept. adds new CRIM course

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 at 6:49 PM
Mock Trial team competes, dept. adds new CRIM course by Hannah McDonald
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Looking through the salacious details of the alleged affair detailed in their provided case materials, the Edinboro University Mock Trial team earned outstanding performance as attorneys from the judges in the regional competition. 

The Edinboro Mock Trial team, advised by Dr. Joseph Conti of the criminal justice, anthropology and forensic studies department, competed in the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) Regional Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament in Columbus, Ohio. The competition was Feb. 10-11. 

“My role is as a coach and advisor,” explained Conti, who helped the mock trial team’s nine members prepare for this year’s competition.  

This competition — which hosted a number of universities in the region, including Duquesne University, Penn State University and Ohio State University — was focused around a criminal case that team members would have to study and then act upon in a mock court event. 

In a press release last month by Edinboro University, the case presented to the Edinboro team was described as: “An alleged love affair turned into jealous violence. An unknowing victim caught at the wrong place, seemingly at the wrong time. A violent offender allegedly attempts to strangle the victim to continue the secret affair with the victim’s spouse.”

For the competition, every team receives the same case materials when they register.

The Edinboro Mock Trial team received case materials in September 2017 from AMTA officials and they were off. The clock had begun for the students — a mix of criminal justice and other various majors — to review all of the files, including rules of evidence, photos, jury instructions and affidavits. 

In addition to taking in all of the case materials, Conti said, “You learn how to read a case, understand the facts and law, and prepare a trial from start to finish.” 

“From there, we start to build theories for both prosecution and defense, since we end up trying the case for both sides,” Julia Mutranowski, vice president of Edinboro’s Mock Trial team, said in Edinboro’s press release. “From those theories, we decide which witnesses to call and [we] start having those witnesses prepare testimony and have their attorneys prepare questions.”

“Now here’s the thing,” Conti went on to say. “Your team has to be prepared to present as either the defense or as the prosecution….you don’t know until the morning of the competition which team is going to present (on either side).” 

Throughout the two-day competition, the mock trial team competes in four courtroom scenarios. This allows them to, eventually, be on either side of the case at least once, usually twice, Conti explained. 

“Although the judge in the case doesn’t provide a ruling, the post-trial accolades spoke highly of the performance from Edinboro,” reported the university press release.

Erin O’Brien, Edinboro’s mock trial team president, Mutranowski and Emily Maziarz, a teammate, were recognized for their outstanding performance as attorneys. 

“I think they did an exceptional job,” Conti said of the team’s work at this year’s competition. “I think anybody who is willing to take on this challenge is showing a great deal of strength, in my mind a great deal of character, and I think they’re showing qualities that will, in the end, help them distinguish themselves in a very competitive job market, wherever they are,” he said.

This coming fall, in efforts to help students prepare for future courtroom and mock trial experiences, Edinboro is offering CRIM 360, Courtroom Advocacy, for the first time ever.

Conti elaborated on the course content: “The case that is assigned by the AMTA will be the case that’s used for the class, which means anybody who takes the course is going to learn how to prepare a trial from start to finish and actually present it. So, they’ll not only have textbook learning, they’ll also have in-class exercises and mock exercises as part of the course requirements and their grade.”

Members of the mock trial team will not be required to take the course nor will class members be required to join the team. 

Conti, who will teach the new course, hopes that it will allow members of the team to learn more material to prepare for their futures in mock trial and their careers.

“That’s why I say I’m very proud of these students, because when you think of the measure of sacrifice that they went through to get prepared for a competition on their own time, after hours, it’s incredible. If you think about it, it’s [similar] to a course you’re taking on top of four or five other courses you’re taking and you’re not getting a single academic credit for it over the past four years,” Conti said. “Now they are.” 

 Hannah McDonald can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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