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A mock trial is a simulation or enactment of a judicial proceeding. Mock trials may be based on historical events, cases of contemporary interest, school events, or hypothetical situations and fact patterns. The format of a mock trial can be either formal or informal. The format chosen depends on the objectives of the class, the time available, and the sophistication of the participants.
Mock trials provide participants with knowledge of the judicial system, legal process, and courtroom procedure. Mock trials help to: develop participant questioning, critical thinking, and oratory skills; demonstrate the roles of various actors in the legal system; and provide the class with exposure to legal resource people, such as judges, attorneys, and law participants.
If a jury trial is used, participants assigned to a jury may use this time to discuss the role of the jury, jury selection procedures in the local community, and the historical development of the jury system. A resource person should be involved if this option is used.
In U.S. courtrooms, elaborate rules regulate the admission of evidence. These rules ensure that both parties receive a fair hearing and exclude evidence that is irrelevant, untrustworthy, or unduly prejudicial. For purposes of a classroom mock trial, the rules of evidence may be greatly simplified. The following rules are those most commonly applied to a classroom mock trial.
Leading questions are permitted during the cross‑examination but not during direct examination of a witness. A leading question is one that suggests the answer desired by the person asking the question. Direct questions are generally phrased to evoke a narrative answer.
As a general rule, witnesses may not voice their opinions. They should confine testimony to matters of personal knowledge (i.e., what they did, saw, heard, smelled, etc.). Certain witnesses who have special knowledge or experience in a certain field, however, may be qualified as “expert witnesses.” An expert witness may express an opinion about his or her area of special expertise.
Hearsay is an out‑of‑court statement offered to prove the truth of what is asserted in the statement.
Only relevant testimony may be presented. Irrelevant testimony is that which has nothing to do with the issues in the case. For example, to ask whether a witness to an alleged crime has read any good books lately would obviously disclose irrelevant facts for a jury or judge to consider.
If there is any physical evidence (e.g., documents, photographs, etc.) that either side wishes to have introduced at trial, this may be done by
If a witness’s testimony contradicts the facts as offered in the his or her witness statement or other witness statements, the opposing side can impeach the witness on cross‑examination. “Impeach” means that the opposing side can point out the contradiction and thereby call into question the truthfulness of the witness.
To impeach a witness, the opposing side should
In classroom situations, the participant attorney may object if the other side introduces evidence that cannot reasonably be deduced from the fact pattern given.
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