For the last seven years, Fresno State Mock Trial has grown into a nationally recognized club. Since it started in 2005, Mock Trial has placed or won regional awards as teams and individuals from tournaments across the West Coast, even competing as far as Tennessee this past fall.
“Except for last year, we made nationals three years in a row,” said Grant Mason, vice president of the Mock Trial club.
“This year we competed in Tucson, Arizona and took second place, and took sixth out of 60 teams at our Tennessee competition.”
This past weekend Mock Trial hosted a regional tournament on campus, which Mason described as the hardest regional in the West Coast.
“None of the teams coming are push-over teams,” Mason said.
From the opening statement, to the closing testimony, the trials replicated actual jury trials. Although the pre-trial process is done beforehand to ensure that both the prosecution and defense have a viable case, there is a real attorney present at the trails who scored the mock attorneys individually.
“You have three attorneys and three witnesses for both sides,” Mason said. “They will add up the scores, and whichever team has the most points wins the ballot.”
Out of the 20 teams who competed this past weekend, only eight made national spots. Fresno State, however did not receive any awards.
“All of our rounds were very close this past weekend, and we went against teams from Stanford, UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz,” said Mason.
With a reputation in the American Mock Trail Association (AMTA) for running the best regional, Fresno State did not disappoint.
“It’s our fifth year running it, so we have it down pretty good. It went over very well,” said Mason.
Heather Blair, a Fresno State criminology graduate and three-year member of Mock Trial, acknowledged that her training in the club proved vital to her ability to perform in the Peace Corps.
“I am currently a community health volunteer in Mozambique,” Blair said. “All of the benefits of Mock Trial [have] enabled me to plan and execute training and adapt to a new culture.”
She added that Mock Trial develops an individual’s ability to think on their feet while catering to creative desires.
“It is an extra-curricular that combines academic development and reallife experience in a controlled environment,” Blair said.
The Mock Trial Club at Fresno State generally recruits during the first few weeks of the fall semester, with an all-around season and bi-weekly practices.
Based on skill level, the members are divided into four teams, with a total of seven coaches. The two main coaches, Gordon Park and Steve McQuillan, are renowned litigators in Fresno.
“All of our coaches are real attorneys, which provides for great networking,” said Mason.
Member Hailey Bonds said the best way to describe mock trials for those who don’t understand it is to picture a theater production.
“Imagine a play, but the stage moves and stuff get thrown at the actors,” Bonds said. “They’re expected to dodge everything coming at them while remaining balanced on that moving stage,” Bonds said.
Mason describes the Mock Trial in three forms.
“It’s a class, a club and a team.”