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Feb. 10, 2011
MARYVILLE, Mo. - The Northwest mock trial team completed the most successful season in its history at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, Feb 4-5 at the American Mock Trial Association's Great Midwest Regional Tournament.
Patrick Winkler, a senior political science major from Kansas City, received an attorney award, earning 19 out of a possible 20 marks. Winkler's was the highest attorney score a Northwest student has earned at a regional competition.
Daniel E. Smith, the team's coach and an assistant professor of political science, said the team began preparing for the tournament in August and competed against some of the region's elite mock trial programs, including teams each from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Creighton University, the University of Kansas and Loras College.
Smith said the team's success this year stemmed from the member's hard work and the leadership abilities of the experienced team members, led by team president Bree Berner.
"We don't have a law school, we don't have a mock trial course, and we have a fraction of the resources that many of the teams we compete against have," Smith said. "We had eight students this year with no prior college mock trial experience. Our success this year is a tribute to how hard the students worked, how much the experienced students helped the others, and the team chemistry we developed."
The most successful mock trial team in the University's history, Northwest expanded its squad to two competition teams for the first time, Smith said. The team has 13 members, whose majors included political science, history, English, geology, sociology, pre-med and education.
At the Great Midwest Regional, one team narrowly missed an honorable mention and a bid as an alternate for the national tournament. The second team earned a tie in the final round with a Northwestern team.
Junior Amanda Docter earned 14 marks and junior Seth Slayden earned 13 marks, both narrowly missing the necessary 15 marks for individual witness awards.
Winkler and Slayden were ranked on all four judges' ballots on the plaintiff's side. Docter and Blair Henry, a recent Northwest graduate, were ranked on all four ballots on the defendant's side.
Throughout the season, the team members spent more time researching and preparing cases, and they took advantage of fundraising opportunities that allowed them to compete in additional tournaments - which grew their confidence, Winkler said.
Last month, the mock trial team received the Irene Downs Civility Award, a peer-judged award for professionalism, at the City of Fountains Tournament, Jan. 14-15, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. At the BlueJay Open, Jan 22-23, at Creighton University, Winkler and Elizabeth Chipps received individual awards as outstanding witnesses.
Northwest also hosted the Bearcat Invitational, Nov. 5-6, which was the first mock trial tournament ever hosted at the University. The members earned their first team performance award with a second place finish and received three individual awards. Berner was recognized as outstanding attorney, and Winkler and Chipps were awarded for outstanding witnesses.
Winkler, who plans to become a lawyer, said participating in mock trial tournaments helped him gain important insights into the law field.
"While considerably different from an actual trial, mock trial has helped me learn the basics of objections and responses to those objections, rules of evidence, and how to build a case around the law, as well as what a trial judge may expect," Winkler said. "We often had actual local level judges or trial attorneys as our competition judges and they offered valuable advice at the end of each round that helped us improve."
Winkler added, "We competed against some of the best programs in the country and knowing that our team could compete with them with much less funding and no law school to support us makes me more confident in competing with these people once I reach law school. Had it not been for this experience, I may have been more intimidated in that situation."
Northwest's mock trial team competes in regional and national competitions sponsored by the American Mock Trial Association. Students prepare cases and play the roles of attorneys and witnesses during simulated trials before professional judges and attorneys. Mock trial gives undergraduate students an opportunity to learn firsthand about the judicial process and the work of trial attorneys, as well as honing communications skills.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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