Mock Trial Boot Camp

As the sun rose on Waltham, Massachusetts on July 21st, Perry Mason, Matlock, and Matt Murdock were all quaking in their boots. The Brandeis Mock Trial participants were redefining the landscape of aggressive cross examination, fervent objections, and mastery of evidence.

Monday was long and grueling, but these high schoolers were more than up to the challenge. The day began with an intensive exploration of witness questioning. First they learned how to ask open questions on direct examination:

“How are you this morning?”

“What color car were you driving?”

“Who did you see coming through the front door?”

But the geniality of the first session quickly gave way to the brutal ruthlessness of the closed and leading questions necessary for effective cross examination:

“You did purchase the gun, didn’t you?”

“Isn’t it true that there is no possible way you could have known that?”

“You have every reason to lie here today, do you not?”

They all played the roles of witnesses faithfully and took on the role of attorney with gusto. After lunch, it was big picture time. What is a trial? Why are they important to our justice system? How does it work? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of our adversarial criminal justice system?

The student with an impressive grasp of nuance and appreciation for big ideas. So far, the students have been captivated by all discussions, from the minute – “what should I do to keep my hands from fidgeting?” – to the grand – “What is justice, and who gets to decide?” As for Mason, Matlock, and Murdock, their days are numbered.

- Residential staff Dave B.

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