Two EMU mock trial teams qualify for national competition
YPSILANTI - For the first time ever, Eastern Michigan University qualified to compete at the National Mock Trial Tournament in Richmond, Ky., March 18-20. And it qualified not one, but two teams.
The EMU teams qualified by placing fifth and seventh (only the top seven advance) out of 22 colleges at the Midwest Regional Collegiate Mock Trial Tournament at Notre Dame University.
In addition to team honors, three members of the EMU Mock Trial team received individual awards out of 10 given. Jason Hagelthorn, a senior psychology major from Westland, received an Outstanding Witness award. Geoffrey Montagne, a senior political science major from Novi, and Jennifer Hartlep, a senior public law and government major from Howell, received Outstanding Attorney awards. Each received a plaque for their efforts.
“It took a lot of hard work to place so well, “ said Barry Pyle, associate professor of political science and an academic coach of EMU’s Mock Trial team.
Pyle said the team has made good progress in its three years of existence.
“In the first year, we really did not know what we were doing,” he said.
Still, EMU’s Mock Trial Team won the Best New Team award during their first year.
However, qualification for the national tournament this year is a whole other achievement, Pyle said.
"I don't think anyone expected both of the teams that we took to the regional competition to garner a national bid, but we all knew that we had a chance— a good chance if we really applied ourselves," Hartlep said.
“The team means a lot to me,” said Hagelthorn. “To be honest, I put in more time for the team than I do for my studies. And I have a 3.9 GPA in my political science courses.”
Eastern Michigan competed against teams from Notre Dame, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Case Western, Butler and other schools. The tournament consisted of two days of intense competition with four trials.
American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) competitions are based on fictitious events that alternate from a criminal case one year to a civil case the next. Cases take place in the fictional state of Midlands. Two competing teams act as prosecution and defense. Attorneys are scored on opening and closing statements, as well as direct and cross-examination. The scores are based on presentation and an attorney’s ability to integrate the substantive, legal and procedural aspects of the case. Witnesses are scored on their performance under direct and cross-examination.
AMTA is designed for undergraduate students interested in law to have a first-hand learning experience in the courtroom and interact with real judges and attorneys. More than 250 universities and colleges, with representation numbering 521 teams, compete in regional competitions across the country.
Pyle and Mark Maironis, an instructor of political science, prepped the team during the fall for regional competition. The two helped students work through legal and factual issues in the case, and construct effective strategies to present the case to a judge.
To prepare for the national tournament, EMU students will practice with local attorneys and judges for 6-8 hours a week, Pyle said. Some students even take a Mock Trial course offered through the political science department.
“Mock Trial is a way to test yourself,” said Amanda Burnell, who is taking the Mock Trial class this year. “It makes you think on your feet and adapt to the unexpected.”
Eastern Michigan University is a public comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.