Millsaps Mock Trial: A Force to be Reckoned With

by Courtney Cleveland

features editor

Just last competition season, the Millsaps Mock Trial team represented the university at the regional competition. Harvey Fiser, the advisor and coach of the team since 2011, said he is confident that the Millsaps Team will said will go further than it has in its five-year history.  Last year, the team ranked 102 in the U.S. out of over 700 mock trial teams.

“This year, we are officially ranked 44th in the nation due to our outstanding showing last year,” Fiser said. “While we feel the loss of a few of our starters from last year, we only lost three of the 10 members of the team who competed in the national finals from last year; so, I feel great about how we are doing.”

So far, the team is off to a great start. They participated in the Jackson Joust on September 25th. One of the smaller teams received second place, and the team as a whole received three to four awards.

Ultimately, the purpose of the Mock Trial team is to “give students an opportunity to become familiar with the intricacies of the United States legal system. Furthermore, this organization allows students to improve their ability to analyze information, construct convincing arguments and learn and practice critical thinking, presentation and professionalism [skills]. Most importantly, this organization aims to increase the prestige, recognition and respect of Millsaps College,” Fiser said.

Additionally, Fiser said, “Mock Trial not only helps with those entering the field of law, but develops skills for those in every other major or career path. Mock Trial helps from public speaking, critical thinking, impromptu speaking and acting, interviewing and organizational skills. I have had professors relate to me the huge changes in some students since they joined Mock Trial. For instance, one student, notorious for their shyness, after one year of Mock Trial was able to take on a difficult interviewing process and wowed the interviewers with their confidence and poise.” While participating in Mock Trial, students demonstrate the characteristics of poise, confidence, determination, tenacity and a positive attitude.

To prepare for competitions, Fiser said, “More than anything, these students study and practice. Each is responsible for their part in trial as well as knowledge of the entire case so they know where their part fits in a greater puzzle. Each team puts in several hours a week running through directs and crosses and rehearses their openings and closings. On top of all of that, they must know the complicated rules of evidence and law that controls the case. Hard work, a willingness to learn and the ability to adjust on the fly are what makes a great member prepared.”

Bethany Hallenborg, a freshman who recently joined the Mock Trial Team as a double witness, said, “Just telling myself that I am Riley Winter or Vic Fogel or Skye Martin before I get on the stand and taking three deep breaths helps me stay in character and feel like I’m supposed to be there. I just try to psych myself into thinking, ‘I’m really in court and this is my testimony.’”

“You need to dedicate time and energy, and for me, I am always trying to think of ways to improve my directs and crosses and learn my witnesses better so I can be more like them naturally in court,” Hallenborg said. She also said, “I’m biased about how good our team is, but I think our dedication and perseverance makes us one of the best teams in the nation and I believe we can go as far and be as good as we want to be. We just have to put in the time and work hard.”

Millsaps Mock Trial’s next competition is during homecoming weekend. Fiser said, “One of our teams will travel to Kennesaw State University in Atlanta for a one day, two trial competition.” Bethany asks that everyone, “please give us all the good vibes you can and wish us luck.”