Mock Trial gears up for busy season

by Kaitlin Bell | 11/14/01 6:00am

Have you ever confused Mock Trial with the debate team? According to Mock Trial Vice President Matt Levine '02, you're not alone -- and it's a touchy subject.

"Debate basically consists of two people squaring off over a given issue," said Levine. "In Mock Trial we actually simulate a full trial, complete with witnesses and attorneys."

The group is clearly gaining more name recognition, though. Last year, Mock Trial sent teams to Intercollegiate National competition in St. Paul, Minn., and the National Championship Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa. After a strong showing at the prestigious Yale Invitational last weekend, this year looks promising too.

Every September, the Mock Trial Association sends details of a case to more than 200 schools in the United States. Trials alternate between civil and criminal cases each year. In 2001, the case is a murder at an advertising agency in which an associate at the firm stands accused.

At the start of Fall term, the organization holds tryouts for the "roles" in the trial. "The major criterion for either a witness or an attorney is presence," Levine explained. "Therefore, we don't require that people have prior experience. We teach the attorneys how to argue, how to use the law, and we teach the witnesses how to most effectively portray their character ... in the battle of wits that is cross-examination."

About 50 teams from all over the country competed at Yale. For the first time since the organization was founded six years ago, Dartmouth succeeded in sending four full teams to the competition.

The highest ranking team, which is made up of Stephanie Hogan '02, Jeremy Presser '04 and Victoria Corder '05 as attorneys and Dennis Recca '02, Matt Levine '02, Chris Kunke '02, Vivian Mills '02 and Terri-Anne Segovia '05 as witnesses, placed seventh overall.

With a score of 138 out of a possible 140 points, the team was just two points away from placing in the top three overall. In addition, Henry Shi '02 received one of ten Outstanding Witness Awards, and Brian Pingree '04 received an Honorable Mention for Outstanding Attorney.

Hogan, the president of the organization, explained that since Dartmouth starts classes so much later than other schools, teams are at a relative disadvantage.

"We only have three weeks to prepare for this competition, whereas other teams have two months," Hogan said. "I think it really speaks well of Dartmouth that our teams can just go in there and think on their feet, especially since many of the teams were made up primarily of new members."

Levine called Dartmouth's performance a "record-setting year at Yale."

The group will use individual scores from the Yale event to rearrange their team for winter's regional tournament. "Essentially, we want two teams that are very, very competitive, so we have a better chance of getting ... to Nationals," Levine said.

After the teams are reorganized, preparation for the competition season will begin in earnest. The team officers will hold practice trials twice a week in the six weeks leading up to the regional tournament.

Several of the officers were optimistic about prospects for the rest of the competitive season. "Our goal this year is to do even better than last year," Levine said. "So far we've been doing very well."

Hogan also stressed the organization's co-programming with the Daniel Webster Legal Society and its growing relationship the Dartmouth College Lawyer's Association. "Our goal this year is really just to continue growing as an organization and to continue to develop ties with other groups on campus," Hogan said.

Levine was also enthusiastic. "Our presence has definitely increased on campus," he said. "We've grown both in terms of numbers and maturity. There are many problems a campus organization can have, but many interested people is one of the best problems I can imagine!"