back to news Nov. 20, 2017

Student Mock Trial club starts season off with powerful court presence

The courtroom is always in session for Mock Trial at Ohio State, a club of roughly 30 undergraduate students who every year face dozens of collegiate mock trial teams around the U.S. in hopes of winning the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) national championship.

Though Ohio State has never taken the national title, the team is well on its way after winning the Great American Mock Trial Invitational (GAMTI) in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 12. 

“GAMTI is considered the best predictor of who’s going to win the national tournament, so we’re pretty pumped about that,” said second-year economics student and Mock Trial at Ohio State team member Anna Defendiefer.  

All teams work on the same, single case throughout the season, alternating between prosecution and defense during competition. For each round, both sides enact all the main steps of a trial, including opening statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses, objections and closing statements. The winner is determined by two to three judges. 

This year’s case is State v. Dylan Hendricks, an attempted murder case involving infidelity, a dating app named “Tender” and a witness whose memory may have been compromised, Defendiefer said. All mock trials take place in a fictional U.S. state called Midlands.

.@MockTrialOSU has their sights set on a national championship, and they are off to a great start #ASCDaily

The team is primarily funded by the Department of Political Science, but students represent a range of majors, including computer science and physics, said Defendiefer, adding that the team meets two to three times a week to practice.

“When you’re working on a case so hard and so often you really build some great bonds,” she said. “The team members are my best friends and they’re really what has made my time at Ohio State enjoyable.”

Regionals are the next step toward the national championship, and thanks, in part, to generous sponsorship from Arts and Sciences alumnus Carter Phillips (BA, political science, ’73) and his D.C.-based law firm Sidley Austin LLP, Ohio State will host its own regional tournament at the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in February.

Phillips has served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger on the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as Judge Robert Sprecher on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He said he always looks for ways to encourage undergraduate students to go to law school, and sponsoring the Mock Trial team seemed like a great opportunity to do so.

“I had the privilege of meeting with the Ohio State Mock Trial team when I was on campus last month and was completely overwhelmed by the students,” Phillips said. “They are remarkable and I’m happy to support them.”

Only 50 of the roughly 600 collegiate teams in the U.S. will compete at the AMTA National Championship Tournament, which will be held April 20-22, 2018, in Minneapolis.