Blue Ridge senior history students attended the Great American Mock Trial Invitational (GAMTI) at the University of Virginia’s School of Law on Wednesday, January 10. Twenty universities participated in the competition. Our seniors joined students from three other area high schools to serve as members of juries.
Mock Trial is an extracurricular activity in which teams of six to eight college students compete against other schools in three-hour trials. Students play the roles of attorneys and witnesses, both of which are scored. All competitors learn about the law, courtroom procedures and the rules of evidence as well as public speaking and critical thinking skills.
In this year’s GAMTI competition, eleven state or federal judges presided over eleven courtrooms. Each jury, made up of our Blue Ridge seniors and students from the other high schools, heard testimony, viewed evidence and listened to arguments by both the defense and prosecuting benches. Each of the eleven courtrooms heard the same case.
In this year’s case (one that had actually recently occurred), jurors had to decide if a man died in a car accident because the car was defective, the condition of the road was unsafe for his speed, or it was an act of suicide. One set of lawyers represented the insurance company, the other the family. Of the eleven trials held on Wednesday, one of the judges shared that this year there were more split decisions as the juries had a hard time reaching a decisive verdict. This indicated that both sets of lawyers had made very good points.
When the trial was over and the verdict rendered, each of the judges turned to the high school students in the jury and asked them why they had reached their decision. The lawyers were also allowed to ask questions. What could they have done better? How did they not convince the jury? This helped these soon-to-be practicing lawyers understand how to present information more effectively to the jury. The judge also offered advice to the law students. Mr. Young reports that our seniors continued a lively debate on the bus with a lot of enthusiastic discussion afterwards.
Prior to the GAMTI competition, UVA students went through a three-day pre-trail, rehearsing the case after which the judges critiqued them. Wednesday’s competition served as the final exam for these law students.
UVA’s Mock Trial team members practice in courtrooms at the UVA Law School and compete in tournaments throughout the country.
Virginia Mock Trial ended its fall invitational season by winning the 22nd annual Yale Invitational with a perfect 8-0 record.