Maybe the cross-examinations are hypothetical and no one is going to jail. But that doesn’t mean the Huron Mock Trial Club doesn’t mean business when it competes each year in March.
Club members wouldn’t practice three days a week for up to three hours a day after school preparing for the annual competition if they didn’t think it was serious stuff.
“I’ve been in the Debate Club, the Student Government Club, the Ethics Bowl Club and I liked all of them, but I didn’t like any of them as much as Mock Trial,” said Abdul Kizito, a 16-year-old junior and co-captain of the Mock Trial Club who has been a member since his freshman year. “It’s the competition that does it for me. I really like it. I’m in Rising Scholars, National Honors Society, Interact and Model United Nations, so I do a lot of things.
“Mock Trial takes a lot of time, but it’s such a good time, and I get so much out of it.”
Kizito is the only member of the club that is still around from the group that started up again three years ago under sponsor Andrew Face after lying dormant for several years. That year, in 2016, Huron’s Mock Trial Club won the Washtenaw County Regionals and qualified for the State competition. The following year, Huron won Regionals then took fourth in the state. This past March, Huron didn’t advance past Regionals.
“We lost a lot of club founders, our original members, and we have just one senior on the team,” said Face, who teaches AP Government and Global Politics. “We’ve got a lot of underclassmen, which only means we’ve got a bright future ahead of us.”
Mock Trial is made up of 10-person teams that reenact the same type of activities that might take place in a civil or criminal trial. Students act as witnesses or attorneys and compete against each other in front of real judges and attorneys who volunteer their time in real courtrooms.
The students simulate a trial in real time, interpreting witness statements and legal documents. They draw on historical events, other trials and current issues. Regionals are held annually at the Washtenaw County Courthouse and the State competition takes place in Veterans Memorial Courthouse in East Lansing.
“They learn rules of hearsay, relevance, and other rules that govern courts,” Face said. “It forces kids to analyze and think critically. They have to adjust react and use some high-order thinking.
“These are skills that they can definitely use later in life.”
Ryan Gudal, a 17-year-old junior co-captain of the Mock Trial Club, played a defense attorney in his first year in 2016 and again this year.
“Last year, I made the opening speech, and this year I made the closing speech,” he said. “They put a 5-minute cap on the speeches, and I ran over this year. They had to cut me off.”
Sounds like Gudal is a born public speaker, right? Couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I’m really not comfortable speaking in public, to be honest, but Mock Trial has helped me with that,” he said. “I’m a competitive chess player, that’s my game, so strategy is my favorite part of Mock Trial. I enjoy debating with friends and family on a small scale, but I never thought I’d be doing it in a real courtroom in front of a real judge.”
Gudal, who also participates in Chess Club, Computer Science Club, National Honor Society and coaches the Academic Games Program at Thurston Elementary School, says he’s passionate about Mock Trial. But he doesn’t plan to pursue law after high school.
“I’m leaning more toward engineering, tentatively,” he said. “But Mock Trial teaches things that are useful no matter what you want to do. Working with a team, critical analysis, you name it. It’s been a great experience.”
Unlike his classmate, Kizito does intend to go into law after high school. He says he had his mind made up about that before he joined Mock Trial three years ago, but that his participation in the group only solidified his plans.
Kizito, a native of Uganda, has used Mock Trial to simulate courtroom drama and it also became one his main social activities.
“I came to this country two weeks before my freshman year and I was looking for a way to make friends,” said Kizito. “At first, I didn’t like the time commitment of Mock Trial, but the kids were so fun. I made friends so quickly and they helped me understand American society. I loved it immediately.”
Both Kizito and Gudal say their experience in Mock Trial has been exciting, and both are looking forward to next year.
“I would tell anyone thinking about it that they should give it a try,” Gudal said. “Yes, it’s competitive, but it’s also a great learning experience and it’s really a lot of fun.”
For more information about the Huron Mock Trial Club, visit https://huronmocktrial.wordpress.com/join/