Mock Trial Strategies

Rules, Roles and Decorum

Noble County Courthouse, Albion, Indiana,  1887.

Mock Trial Procedures

  •  When teams register and pay their feeds they will be given the following:
    • The case material
    • The rules for the competition
  • The Mock Trial rules also contain the rules of evidence from which objections can be made
  • Check with your state sponsor to see if they have a list serve or some other way of answering question
  • If there is a list serve, sign up for it and review the answers that are given because they become part of the material and rules.

Sample Mock Trial Rules

Typical Sequence of a Mock Trial

  1. Clerk calls the court to order.
  2. Judge enters and takes the bench
  3. Judge may make a few initial comments
  4. Each side introduces itself
  5. Each side may bring up preliminary matters such as:
    • The bailiff sit in the jury box during opening statement and closing argument so speakers can see the time cards
    • Permission to freely move around the courtroom during direct and cross examination
    • Permission to video tape the court (if wanted).
  6. Parties make opening statements 
  7. Prosecution/plaintiff presents their case:
    • Prosecution/plaintiff calls their witnesses and seeks to admit exhibits.
    • Defense cross examines these witnesses
  8. Prosecution/plaintiffs rest their case
  9. Defense presents their case:
    • Defense calls their witnesses and seeks to admit exhibits
    • Prosecution/plaintiff  cross examines these witnesses
  10. Defense rests their case
  11. Prosecution/plaintiff makes their initial closing argument
  12. Defense makes their closing argument
  13. Prosecution/Plaintiff makes their rebuttal closing argument
  14. Jury/Judge deliberate and fill out their ballots
  15. Ballots are sent to the competition coordinator
  16. Judges may make a few comments to the participants

Brief Overview of the Roles

  • Attorney doing the opening statement:
    • Gives a memorized oratory speech
    • Excellent for someone who may miss some meetings
    • No objections are allowed so this attorney does not have to learn rules of evidence
    • Attorney is familiar with the overall case and works closely with the other attorneys 
  • Attorney(s) doing Direct Examination
    • Asks their own witnesses open ended questions to help them tell their story
    • May introduce Exhibits.
    • Makes and responds to objections.
    • Makes sure the evidence comes in that their side needs.
    • Tries to keep out objectionable evidence the other side want in.
  • Attorneys(s) doing Cross Examination:
    • Asks the other side’s witness closed ended questions to get admissions.
    • Is able to control the opposing side’s witnesses.
    • May need to introduce exhibits.
    • Makes and responds to objections.
    • May needs to know how to introduce exhibits
    • Makes sure the evidence comes in that their side needs.
    • Tries to keep out objectionable evidence the other side wants in. 
  • Attorney doing Closing Argument
    • Know the entire case
    • Listen to the testimony that comes in at trial.
    • Makes the final argument based on this evidence.  that comes in.
    • Does not make or respond to objections.  
    • This role is best for a team member who has done mock trial before.
  • Lay Witnesses
    • Ordinary witnesses that testify based upon their personal knowledge and life experiences.
    • Great for team members who like to act.
  • Expert Witnesses
    • Persons who testify based upon their qualifications of expertise in their field.
    • Great for team members that want to be in a professional role.
  • Clerk and Bailiff
    • These roles can be learned quickly and are excellent for someone who wants to be involved in mock trial but does not have a lot of time to devote to it. 
  • Team Captains (optional)
    • Consider having two team captains, one for the Prosecution/Plaintiff and one for the Defense.  
    • These are often the attorney doing closing argument.
    • Have experience in a variety of mock trial roles and possess leadership qualities.
  • Non-Trial Roles (optional;)
    • Not officially listed on the roster or introduced to the Court.
    • Artists who sketch the courtroom and participants.
    • Reporters to video tape the trial (with the permission of the court)
    • Support and backup team members.

Court Decorum (General Suggestions)

  • Always stand when talking to the court and when the judge enters or leaves the room
  • Attorneys are officers of the court – be professional
  • Stay in your role the entire time as if this were an actual trial 
  • Always be courteous to the judge, attorneys and witnesses
    • When being assertive on cross examination go after the witness not the person playing the role
    • Don’ t laugh or make sounds if the other side makes a mistake
  • Dress appropriately
  • Say “Yes, your Honor” or “No, your Honor” when answering questions from the judge 
  • If the judge rules against you on a point or in the case, take the adverse ruling gracefully and be cordial with the judge and other team
  • If you are a witness, don’t be seated until after the clerk swears you in
  • Follow the seating chart that comes with your case material
  • Don’t show you are having fun until after the round
  • Shake the hands of the other team after the judges retire to deliberate and give complements generously

Sample Seating Chart

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