A made-up case of attempted murder got UR Mock Trial to nationals, but now the team will be competing with a brand new case — a conspiracy surrounding an armed bank robbery.
Starting this Friday in the three-day tournament, the club’s A team will take the stand against the best mock trial teams from colleges across the country.
“I never imagined this happening at all,” said senior Zachary Marshall-Carter, the group’s vice president and an A-team member. “My freshman year, we hadn’t been to nationals for maybe six or seven years until last year […] We really want to show that we’re here, and we’re ready to compete at the highest level of competition.”
UR’s teams started prepping back in August, and now the A team — the only team that has survived eliminations — is headed to Minneapolis for the tournament. Last year, both A team and B team went to nationals at UCLA.
The A team placed fourth out of 20 at regionals in Buffalo and fifth out of 24 in the next postseason round in Pennsylvania to propel it to nationals.
What’s interesting about UR Mock Trial, and perhaps makes its run to nationals even more of an accomplishment, is that the organization is student run and student taught.
“We’re one of the few schools that’s both student run and we don’t have a law school associated with our school,” said junior Samantha Myers, who is in charge of fundraising for Mock Trial and a member of the A team. “Most other teams have coaches who sometimes write their material or at least just gives them constant advice on how to be improving their material.”
Junior Hannah Brennan, publicist of Mock Trial and member of the A team, pointed out that despite a lack of resources, there is not a “drastic difference” either between the skill levels of their team and teams that are coached.
According to Marshall-Carter, about 700 teams sign up nationally each year, and now there are a total of 48 teams headed to the Hennepin County Government Center to compete.
The fictional case to be tried, released by the American Mock Trial Association after the second round of the postseason, is “United States v. Parker Barrow,” in which Barrow is accused of helping aid the robbery of a bank they work at.
The A Team has only had a few weeks to prepare for nationals and has thus increased the amount of time its met to plan out the best prosecution, defense, statements, witnesses, and cross-examinations.
“[Nationals is] more fun and relaxed because we know that we’re just there to do our best, and we can take some more risks and have a little more fun with it because there’s no pressure knowing that we have to move to the next round,” Brennan said.
The 48 teams competing in nationals this weekend are split into two divisions and put through four rounds. At the opening ceremony, the A team will be paired up against a random college in the first round. Based on this performance, it will compete against teams that performed similarly.
Teams can be judged by law students, attorneys, and actual judges. Members receive individual scores on a specific task in the trials.
At the closing award ceremony, individual awards will be handed out to the best attorneys and witnesses, and the winner of each division will move to a fifth round, where a national champion will be crowned.
“I think, to me, that would just mean everything,” Marshall-Carter said on winning nationals. “It would mean that all the work, all the hundreds and hundreds of hours that we put in, hours of thought, it just means something. It really would solidify to me that this activity, we had a really great impact on it, especially for people to come.”
Most members of UR Mock Trial actually have no interest in practicing law. Many members enjoy the creativity they have to make their statements and their witness their own.
Although nationals will be tough to win, the members are overjoyed with the opportunity to compete and the lasting friends they have made throughout the process and throughout the competition.
Features Editor David Schildkraut contributed reporting for this piece.