by Anna Gary
social media manager
Law really rubs me the wrong way. I watched court TV religiously in my teenage years, and, frankly, it seemed to me like a freak show of pseudo-objectivity: bat your eyes at the judge, cry if you can, and you’re golden. It was a joke. Win or lose, cases were never solved; someone always seemed left out in the cold, and it just bummed me out. I not only detested being part of that world but also considered it one of the lowest, most dehumanizing forms of employment available.
Nevertheless, one rainy Millsaps evening in January, Abed Haddad and I were sitting on my couch, sipping rum and watching “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” when he turned to me suddenly and said, “Anna, do you want to come to Florida this weekend for free?”
“Um, no freaking duh, of course I do, Abed; please elaborate,” I replied.
“Join the Mock Trial team and come with us!” he exclaimed.
Mock Trial? Judge Joe Mathis’ severe goatee and Judge Judy’s beady eagle eyes were the first images to pop into my head. I was certainly not about that. I wanted to let him down easy, so I feigned a little interest, “We just pretend we’re in a courtroom?”
It sounded boring as all get out, but you know how it goes. Three drinks later, my good friend had me convinced that it would be just plain silly to turn down a free trip to Florida. Three days later, I found myself crammed into Carpenter Stevens’ Acura with four of the loudest, most opinionated knuckleheads imaginable. Over the course of the weekend, these knuckleheads, their dedication and four intensely fascinating rounds of the State vs. Whit Bowman stole my heart.
One thing to know about Mock Trial is that, nationwide, every team receives the same case; the witnesses and the lawyers on the team have to prepare a solid case for both the prosecution and the defense. This utterly fascinates me. This forces the team, in one round, to fight for the acquittal of the person that, in the next round, you must strive to convict. My main issue with the courtroom was this illusion of ‘truth’ it represented, this claim that there’s a right and a wrong, and right always wins and wrong always gets hauled off to jail, period. Not in Mock Trial. Even though the defendant in this year’s particular case truly does seem, as my teammate Carpenter Stevens likes to say, “guilty as sin,” we still had to find perspectives and evidence in the case that shed reasonable doubt on his/her charges.
You have to create a story for two opposing sides, and, more than that, you have to believe it! How brilliant is that? This system of practice embraces the idea that there is never an innate “truth of the matter,” but that you take what you have and you make the truth. Though this may seem unsettling in a way, that persuasion (and not necessarily honest persuasion) is the most important trait to have while functioning within our judicial system. I find the honesty behind this competition supremely refreshing; we make our own truth. As a senior Communications major, I simply have to say “word” to that.
Now, all that being said, Beyonce’s self-titled album dropped Dec. 13, 2013. This is important. Why? Because we have proudly claimed Beyonce as our team mascot, that’s why! Our team’s official theme song: “Flawless.” On the way to each and every trial, we vehemently remind one another how absolutely flawless we are. It’s hysterical, but also incredible. We all possess such different values and lifestyles that sometimes clash terribly, so much so that if a discussion of the values of patriarchy arises (which, holy Beyonce, you would not believe just how much it has), all bets are off. Yet, we stick together, and not just because we know that that’s what Beyonce would want, but because we all want to feel the gratification of creating our own truth. The satisfaction of proving both sides of one argument to be irrevocably true using only the facts that you have, the people skills you have developed and the select group of folks you’ve come to count on has been hands-down one of the most empowering experiences of my college career.
Our American judicial system is riddled with deception, sensationalism and structures that perpetuate sexism and racism in our modern culture. But, Mock Trial has given me a speck of optimism in regards to this system. To (reluctantly, but necessarily) quote one of my favorite songs from the good ole high school days: “There is no truth; there is only you and what you make the truth.” No sides are ever inherently right or wrong, and all sides are worth fighting for. That is the resilient message of my Mock Trial experience. Though our judicial system is far from flawless, the Millsaps Mock Trial team is, in a word … Yeah, man, you guessed it.
We’re going to Nationals in Memphis March 21-23. Beyonce, give us strength.