Walls Students Find Community on Newly-Formed Mock Trial Team
Mock trial team members in a courtroom / Credits: Devan Tatlow
Since the Walls mock trial club was founded last year, it has developed into a competitive and close-knit team, while serving a unique purpose by giving trial experience to its members.
Interest in the competition sprouted after several students competed in a mock trial last year as a part of their Street Law class. Ryanne Barstow (‘23) and Amira Schroeder (‘24) took a special interest, forming the club and becoming co-captains. Many other Street Law students joined, and were followed by other recruits.
“The kids were really excited about it and wanted to keep doing it,” said their coach, Georgetown Law student Tera Wendell.
Each mock trial competition consists of one case which varies from year to year. This year, it was the criminal case State of Maryland v. Ryan Grimes. The case focused on whether or not Grimes was involved in illegal drug dealings on a college campus. The mock trial team competed in a Maryland circuit of 30 teams and placed second at circuit championships.
Mock trial helps its members develop a range of skills. Mira Hsu (‘26) noted how mock trial helps members learn to “articulate [themselves] under pressure.”
Schroeder believes mock trial also offers “a range of opportunity,” because it consists of two distinct roles: attorneys and witnesses.
Both the prosecution and the defense have three attorneys who give the opening and closing statements and question witnesses. Witnesses, on the other hand, are responsible for memorizing their testimony and staying in character throughout the trial. The skills needed for each of these roles differ and can appeal to students with varying interests.
Team members are assigned to play witness roles based on personality. Zach Tulley (23’), a prominent prosecution witness, believes he is good at his role because he’s “really good at lying.” Witnesses are important in mock trials because they “really bring it to life,” according to Barstow.
However, attorneys might have a more challenging role, as they have to “think on the spot and argue,” Barstow said.
Over the course of the season, the group has formed a tight bond that extends beyond the courtroom. Schroeder believes this is in part because of what she called the “witness-lawyer partner dynamic,” where each member pairs up with another member and works together for the majority of practice time.
Their connection can also be attributed to the large amount of time the team spends together outside of practice, doing a range of activities from ice skating and dinners to games of human versus the undead, a game which appears in the case State of Maryland v. Ryan Grimes. The game starts with one undead player who is trying to tag the rest of the members. This entails staking out members’ houses, playing between classes and the use of paper balls to stun the undead.
Forming this bond is crucial to their success as a team. “Half the job is to look natural … during trial and … the only way you get that is by liking each other,” Coach Wendell explained.
Going forward, the mock trial faces several hurdles as a club, as six of the members are seniors. Their coach is also leaving following her graduation from law school this year.
“The future is bleak,” Tulley said. However, Schroeder thinks the club will continue if they’re able to “get more underclassmen involved.” Coach Wendell believes the best years of mock trial are yet to come. “When I competed in high school we had people who had competed for four years by senior year and so we had a bunch of mini-coaches running around … I’m really excited as they grow to have that mentorship ability and the ability to get so much more done in a couple hours will really take them to an even higher level.”