Elk River mock trial goes on the offense — and defense

by Briana Sutherland
Contributing writer

Elk River High School’s mock trial team scored a double on Jan. 12, winning both the prosecution and defense contests during a Mississippi 8 conference meet it hosted.

Elk River competed against teams from Buffalo, Cambridge, Monticello and St. Michael/Albertville in two trials, one as the plaintiff and the other as the defendant.
After winning both, the Elks advance to compete again on Feb. 9 for the conference championship.

Ashley Schaber, Pierce Heston, Eric Brinza, Brenden Farver, Breezy Meyer, Casey Beran and Priscillah Nyakundia before heading off to their meet in Isanti on Jan. 27. Not pictured is Joe Reece. Photo by Briana Sutherland

The Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA) sponsors the competition, and in March the winners in each of 12 regions will compete to determine who goes to nationals in May.

The mock trial season began in October when the case is released by the MSBA. Each year the MSBA determines the case that will be used and compiles documentation for teams to use to present their arguments. This year the civil case dealt with a police officer’s termination and whether the officer’s First Amendment rights were violated in the process.

“Memorization and being put in the spotlight is one of the hardest aspects about being a part of the mock trial team. Once you get into it, it’s very simple,” said Pierce Heston, who has participated on the team for three years. “I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about the how the legal system works which is better than people just telling me, because I get to experience what it’s like. It is a big commitment, but it does pay off.”

“What’s surprising about being a part of this team is how everyone has to work together, everyone has to be on the same page. If we’re not all together it falls apart,” said Priscillah Nyakundia.

Practicing for each meet changes depending on how the season progresses. Currently they’re reviewing their performance at recent competitions and will adjust their arguments, anticipate the strategy of competitors as well as practice, refine and polish their presentation skills.

Students get involved by meeting after school in the fall to find out more about the story line, witness roles and how the competition works. By November roles are assigned and the team begins to work together to understand the case, determine strategy for the prosecution and defense and write the questions and scripts.

In December the team begins scrimmaging with other teams and in January and February they begin to focus on the upcoming competition.

“Try out for the team,” Heston suggests. “It’s not difficult once you get into it.”

“We work as a group, not alone,” said Nyakundia.

Mock trial:
Conference  championships: Feb. 9
Regional playoffs: Feb.16-17
Regional finals: Feb.16-17
State: Feb.16- 17 (Rochester, Mn.)
Nationals: May 2-6 Albuquerque, N.M