Here’s the scene: An alleged love affair turned into jealous violence. An unknowing victim caught at the wrong place, seemingly at the wrong time. A violent offender allegedly attempts to strangle the victim to continue the secret affair with the victim’s spouse.
Now it’s time for the Edinboro University Mock Trial Team to take the case.
This spring, Edinboro students competed at the American Mock Trial Association's (AMTA) Regional Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament in courtrooms of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas of Columbus, Ohio.
The clock started as soon as the Mock Trial team received case materials from AMTA officials. Julia Mutranowski, a sophomore psychology major from Milwaukee, said these include affidavits, rules of evidence, jury instructions and photos of evidence.
“From there, we start to build theories for both prosecution and defense, since we end up trying the case for both sides,” said Mutranowski, vice president of Edinboro’s Mock Trial team. “From those theories, we decide which witnesses to call and start having those witnesses prepare testimony and have their attorneys prepare questions.”
Throughout the semester, teams reviewed witness statements that describe events related to the crime. Every member reviewed the evidence, which could include up to 30 exhibits. Trial members reviewed alibi statements and features of the case such as the victim’s drug use and the defendant’s whereabouts during the crime.
The team then selected three witnesses for prosecution and three witnesses for defense, as well as the six attorneys that represented those witnesses. After that, the team rehearsed direct and cross examinations for the trial. Attorneys then became familiar with rules of evidence, trial procedure and making objections.
“No matter what situations or challenges that this team faced this year, our competition team never gave up on one another and worked to accomplish all of the tasks we needed to before we headed into competition,” said Erin O’Brien, president of Edinboro’s Mock Trial team.
Although the judge in the case doesn’t provide a ruling, the post-trial accolades spoke highly of the performance from Edinboro. O’Brien, Mutranowski and teammate Emily Maziarz were recognized by the scoring judges for their outstanding performances as attorneys.
“When I was selected as an outstanding performer, I was absolutely shocked and somewhat in disbelief,” said O’Brien, a chemistry major with a concentration in forensic sciences, who came to Edinboro from Buffalo, N.Y. “When I won this award, my future career in the law was validated to me.”
Additionally, O’Brien, Mary Lindeman, Dewey Hudacky, Jared Wayman, Josh Hudacky and Taylor Szuchon were recognized by the scoring judges for their outstanding performances as witnesses.
“We are proud to say that our team embraced the privilege of representing Edinboro University,” said Joseph Conti, J.D., assistant professor of legal studies in Edinboro’s Criminal Justice, Anthropology, and Forensic Studies Department, and advisor to the Mock Trial team. “All of the members demonstrated that they are talented, energetic and willing to work countless hours to prepare for – and participate in – the regional competition.”
Conti serves as advisor with Elvage G. Murphy, J.D. – like Conti a professor of criminal justice and legal studies – who initiated the EU Mock Trial program in 2013.
According to O’Brien, Edinboro’s Mock Trial extends to students beyond future lawyers. Some roles on the team, she added, were conducted by students who have a passion for acting and drama.
“There are many future careers that involve being familiar with how courtrooms and trials work,” said O’Brien, who is headed to law school after graduation from EU. “Many future careers that are being pursued at Edinboro require being comfortable in a courtroom and this competition provides you with invaluable experience.”
This year, Edinboro students competed alongside Mock Trial teams from institutions across the country, including Case Western Reserve University, University of Dayton, Duquesne University, Penn State University, Miami University of Ohio, Eastern Kentucky University, Carnegie Mellon University, Ohio State University and University of Pittsburgh.
To learn more about Edinboro’s Mock Trial team and the Criminal Justice, Anthropology, and Forensic Studies Department, visit www.edinboro.edu.
Photo caption: Edinboro University students recently competed at the American Mock Trial Association's Regional Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament in Columbus, Ohio. Team members include: (front row) Emily Maziarz, Julia Mutranowski (vice president), Mary Lindeman, Erin O'Brien (president), Josh Hudacky and Taylor Szuchon; (back row) Kali Learn, Dewey Hudacky and Jared Wayman.