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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Mock trial lays down the law at competition

By Kelsey Roebuck

The Grinnell Mock Trial team couldn’t be more Grinnellian. Student run, consistent winners of the Civility Award, and appreciative of students experienced and inexperienced, the team is often the exception to the rule at their competitions.

Mock Trial captains Tasha Popkin ’11, Admin Lange ’11 and Katie Smith ’11 pose in their official garb with their official gavels. The team, despite their highly professional attire and winning streak, are surprisingly low key, friendly and fun – Daniel Penny

That, however, does not stop them from winning.The team swept the board at the St. Thomas Invitational just after Christmas break, achieving first place for the first time.

“In my four years here, I can’t recall us every winning an actual tournament,” said Adam Lange ’11.

A lot of their success is attributed to a highly successful “Mock Trial Week” when the entire team arrived on campus a week before the end of winter break to drill the case.

“We did two-a-days of Mock trial,” said Tasha Popkin ’11. “Pretty intense.”

After attending the Loras Invitational just last weekend and achieving 11th place, the team has high hopes for this weekend’s regional competition. The Loras Invitational is considered second only to nationals and welcomes 66 teams from all over the country.

“I think Loras is the hardest tournament of the year. It’s harder than our regionals, so it’s a good sign that we got 11th,” said Popkin.

This year the team is working on a civil case in which a boy’s father is suing a toy company accused of selling GHB coated “princess beads” after the death of his son, allegedly in accordance with his ingesting the beads. In order to balance the case, however, it is not clear whether the boy died as a result of the poisonous beads. The team is charged with preparing both the defense and the plaintiff side of the case. The story may sound familiar, as all mock trial cases are based upon real legal actions from the past.

As the team approaches the regional tournament, the first competition to determine whether they move forward in the real competition season, the team captains are excited to demonstrate that Grinnell’s laid back team can pull in some major successes. However, they remain true to their historically self-governed “civil” team.

“Each team ranks you on a scale of one to ten on how nice you are outside of trial and how nice you are inside of trial,” said Katie Smith ‘11, “and Grinnell got Honorable Mention with 28 points.”

“We’ve always been the fun-loving, bearded team that other teams are a little more uptight about,” said Lange. “We have fun with it.”

The student-run team takes great pride in its successes, especially as one of the only teams at the invitationals that are not entirely directed by lawyer coaches. Along with allowing them to have more fun than their other “uptight” competitors, it echoes the Grinnell mission to empower its students to fight for what they want.

“It’s kind of the ultimate self-governance,” said Lange.

Dennis McKelvie serves as a consultant to the team from his offices across from Pagliai’s Pizza in downtown Grinnell. Although the team makes most of their law strategy decisions independently, his expertise helps with specific questions of case theory.

Lange also emphasizes the interesting combination of talents on the “A-team.” Made up of roughly six players, the team is about half highly experienced players and half newcomers.

“It’s kind of the right balance of old school original thinking and people who have kind of a fresh take on things,” said Lange.

Alison Liu ’13 is one of the newcomers to the team, and she discovered the strong team dynamic in Grinnell Mock Trial.

“It is a very open, fun accepting team and if you want to join, I had no experience and I went and I was able to do all this stuff,” said Liu, “just because I wanted to.”

Liu plays the CEO of the “Princess Bead Company” for the Defense as well as a health inspector for the Plaintiff.

Although many of their judges have remarked upon the abnormally complex nature of the case, the team has taken on the challenge with enthusiasm and looks forward to showing off at Regionals as well as at the competitions that follow.

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