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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Mock Trial competes at nationals

This past weekend, Grinnell’s Mock Trial team surprised colleges across the country by advancing and participating at the national mock trial competition, beating Brown University and tying the University of Virginia on way to an overall 1-6-1 record. Only 48 out of over 600 college teams in the country made it to the national level, where students tried a defamation case in journalism. “We had been working on this case all year,” said Julia Reese ’10 “It was a rewarding experience to see us compete at nationals—a level where Harvard didn’t make it to this season.”

While Grinnell’s Mock Trial team has been competing for 14 years, this year was the team’s highest placement in a national tournament. “The team is definitely an underdog,” Reese said. “You don’t expect schools without a law school to perform this well, but we changed that this year.”

Team members said the high level of competition did not faze them during the trials. “We were poised and confident,” Sam Wice ’09 said. “We weren’t pressured, because we never expected to get this far— hence why we’re an underdog.”

The team’s success stemed primarily from an intense level of practicing, as members devoted large amounts of time and effort to repeating the same case throughout the year. “We ran this mock trial scenario 36 times at different competitions,” Reese said. “At times, we would practice three to four hours in the morning and in the evening.” The members even cut their winter break short to practice on campus a week prior to the start of the second semester.

Fellow team member Adam Lange ’11 said that another reason for thier victory is a new style of practicing. “As the school year progressed, we started relying on group practices a lot less and instead, doing more one-on-one practices, where we can fine-tune what needs work,” Lange said. “Five Iowa schools made it so we were not surprised who we saw at the competition, and we definitely knew what to expect.”
According to Reese, the team’s unique strength is the ability to look at any case differently from most other teams. “We don’t look like lawyers,” Reese said, “but when it comes to the trial, our trump card is the intelligence, preparation and insight into legal matters and arguments that other teams miss.”

Someone vital to the team’s preparation and practice is local attorney Brad McCall. “He has helped us with not only theory, but how to deliver your ideas during a trial,” Lange added. “If you calculated how much time Brad puts into us and his hourly rates, it adds up to a huge donation.”

This year, the Mock Trial team has been working on a defamation case, regarding a politician who allegedly lost an election due to libel from a reporter in a tabloid magazine. The mock magazine reported that the politician committed first degree murder, which was later found false by forensic scientists. The politician then took the case to court. Prior to the competition, the team then decided whether it will take the prosecution or defense side.

The team is somewhat optimistic about next season. “We definitely have the tools and resources to succeed— it all depends on who we recruit,” Reese added. “We are now definitely prepared for these competitions—however, our shortcoming is the strength of other teams.”

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