“May it please the court…”

With those words, the battle begins; a contest of wills, a test of composure, a war of preparation and the ultimate clash of intellect. The energy in the courtroom is palpable and you can almost see the sparks of anticipation flicker through the room. As the plaintiff plunges into their case-in-chief, precision is everything, every word has been weighed for its effect on the jury and the judge, every question asked on direct examination has been revised for its value to their case and the opening statement has been carefully crafted to set the tone for the entire trial while introducing key facts to jury. It’s a high-pressure game of preparation and in nearly all cases (pun intended), whoever is better prepared come away with the win. All the while, the defense does its best to discredit the plaintiff’s witnesses during cross-examination, poking holes in the plaintiff’s case while attempting to build up their case-in-chief even before it’s presented. The witnesses, albeit fictional, must become their characters and know ‘themselves’ in and out because come cross-examination, the opposing team’s attorneys will do whatever they can to discredit, trip up and impeach them. It all comes to a crescendo with the closing statements. It’s the last thing the jury hears and in very close rounds, the ballots may come down to how well the closing statements are presented. With 9 minutes on the clock the attorney has the opportunity to hammer the last nail in his opponent’s coffin. He or she must eloquently display an understanding of the relevant and applicable law and fluidly bring everything together to present an indisputable case.

It all starts at the beginning of fall; Mock Trial try-outs are held in the first couple weeks of school for new additions to the program. After the new case for the academic year is released, the first semester becomes a feeler period, a tentative time when the new case is dissected, analyzed and evaluated. A time when different case theories are explored, the new teams structured and our competition methodically appraised. Furman participates in around 4 tournaments during the first semester and these tournaments can be considered the regular season. The playoffs are during the spring and that’s when things get really serious. To advance nationally our team had to pick up bids from regional tournaments all over the country. We picked up bids at every regional we went to and this led to our invitation to the ‘pre-national’ tournament, Ney Nationals, here at Furman two weeks ago.

It was a very intense and competitive tournament; we hosted some of the top mock trial programs in the nation including the defending national champions, Duke University. It was incredible, the level of competition was as high as it gets but in the end my team pulled through and earned a bid (top 6 teams of the tournament get bids) to the Mock Trial Nationals in D.C. next week for the 17th year in a row.

As we get ready for nationals, our coaching staff, a stellar cast of lawyers that work in Greenville, are prepping us for the ‘big one’ while our Program Director , Dr. Glen Halva-Neubauer, side bar- He’s also the current president of the American Mock Trial Association, BAM!- makes the magic happen and coordinates the countless logistics that come with getting our teams not only out of class but to and from  tournaments all over the country, figuring out where we’ll stay and tackling all and any complications that may arise. All in all we’re a well-oiled machine primed for taking D.C. by storm come April 11.

Out of all the programs and organizations I’m currently involved in, Mock Trial has to be on the top of my list but it’s also the most time-intensive of them too. It’s been an experience and if you are interested at all in Mock Trial contact me:

Jonathan.kubakundimana@furman.edu

 

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