Running a 1-Day Mock Trial

Scott Bair, Ohio State University

To lay the foundation for the mock trial, I hand out a 'Preface to Participants' in which I list the parties in the mock trial, what students are playing what roles, what exhibits are required to be used, and what websites and information can be used to construct additional exhibits. It is similar to a 'program' at a play or concert and helps define my expectations. A copy of the preface I distribute to the teams in the OSU mock trials can be downloaded here (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 41kB Sep11 08).

Participating in a mock trial is something unusual for your students. They likely will never see the inside of a courtroom again in their lives unless they get selected for jury duty. As a result, I try to make the experience challenging and fun. I require formal attire, attention to details on exhibits, and keeping on schedule. Hiring a photographer or videographer or a charcoal artist adds to the fun.

Although it is not necessary, I also hire a court stenographer to record the trial proceedings. If you are lucky enough to live in a metropolitan area, you may be able to use your mock trial as a assignment for a local trade school that has a court stenography program. The transcripts produced by the stenographer can be put on a CD, given to your students, and used at various times in the future for advertising and other outreach activities.

Perhaps your biggest job on the day of the mock trial is keeping everything on time. You can download the general schedule and list of time targets that I give my students from this file: Mock Trial Schedule (Microsoft Word PRIVATE FILE 58kB Sep10 08). You may also need to be calm some anxious students and sooth some students that don't believe they did well. Most students put a lot of pressure on themselves. I have had very few students act cavalier and disinterested -- there is too much peer pressure from their other team members.

I have lots of refreshments on hand for the students, jurors, and any outside professionals that have volunteered to help. I typically provide a pizza lunch for everyone, but they are not allowed to discuss the trial while eating. The trials that i have run have become some of my best memories of working with students at Ohio State and enjoying the university's connections to the local community.