Mock Trial teams head to Illinois for regional competition

Anisha RajBhandary

Two Macalester Mock Trial teams have qualified for the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS). If they succeed, the teams will advance to the national championship.

The ORCS are held in eight different cities across the country. Macalester’s teams will attend the ORCS in Geneva, IL from March 16-18. The top six teams from each ORCS event advance to the national competition, which will be hosted by Hamline University.

The regional tournament took place at Macalester last month from Feb. 9 -11. Macalester’s A and B teams came out of the tournament looking strong. The A team came in second place, while Macalester’s B team came in sixth place.

Hanna Crow ’19 from Mac A also won an Individual Witness Award. Since the top seven qualified for the Opening Round Championship Series, both of Macalester’s A and B teams will be attending. The last time two Macalester mock trial teams qualified for ORCS was 2012.

Macalester has four mock trial teams, each consisting of 6 to 10 members. In the fall semester, new, inexperienced members are mixed with experienced ones. The focus of those tournaments is not necessarily to win, but instead for new members to learn. After Thanksgiving, the teams are separated by skill-level, and the focus turns to winning.

Every individual on the team takes on different roles which can be roughly broken down between attorneys and witnesses. This is especially important because although mock trial is a team event, each member is awarded points individually. Every round has two judges who give points for 14 different components of the case.

This year’s case is a criminal case involving a love affair, attempted murder and a fictional drug called “Everest.”

In the case, the defense claims that the individual accused of murder, Dylan Hendricks, has been falsely accused – primarily because the victim was high at the time. The state will attempt to prove Hendricks’ guilt regardless of the condition of the would-be victim.

“It’s kind of a cool case because it’s dramatic,” A-team member Max Popkin ’21 said. “Any sort of murder case is a lot more dramatic than like a civil case between two companies trying to get money from each other.”

In preparing for tournaments, every mock trial team receives the same 170-page long file that outlines the facts and evidence for the case, affidavits for the witnesses and case law to justify arguments.

However, as Popkin put it, “there are a billion ways to interpret the evidence.”

The teams work together to interpret the case details, choose a theory and figure out how they want to proceed. Each team must prepare both a prosecution case and a defense case. At every tournament there are four rounds, and each team presents the prosecution side of the case twice and the defense side of the case twice.

While preparing for tournaments, teams focus on breaking down the motives and evidence and deciding how they want to frame the case to the judges. Each team must also work to create characters that fit the perspective of the case they want to present.

This case is the same case that has been used at all previous tournaments. However, leading up to ORCS there have been some changes made to the case that every team must argue. Each year, changes are intermittently made to the case.

Dick Lesicko ’75, who has coached Macalester’s mock trial program since it began the fall of 1993, explained part of the rationale for case changes.

“People get a little bit scripted,” he said. “I mean you get so used to the case you start taking rhetorical shortcuts that lose your audience cause you’re so used to the facts, that you are not really conveying them to someone who hasn’t read the case… We got lucky this year, in that the case changes don’t destroy something that we were doing completely.”

“Essentially, what we’ve decided to do is do as much as we can to play to our strengths,” B-team captain Aedan Helweg ’20 said. “That’s the best way I can phrase it…we know sort of what the other teams are good at. We are trying to pick our strategy strategically to hit at weak points they have.”

Each team is ramping up their preparation in advance of next week’s competition. “Normally we only practice like 2-3 times a week,” A-team member Olivia Shaffer ’19 said. “But we’ve been practicing every day.”

“Now it’s do or die because we want to make it out,” Therese Deslippe ’18 said, “because we want to keep competing together.”