Three nights a week, from 7-10 p.m., Gonzaga’s mock trial team has been studying a murder case, and they have been killing it.

Two of the three teams are headed to the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) after competing in late February at regionals. 

Mock trial is a nationwide competition for imitation trial. Each university gets the same case for the entire academic year to study, create a case for and compete with. The cases alternate between criminal and civil, and this year, it is a criminal case.

“It’s pretty much pretending to be lawyers and witnesses,” said Mai Contino, mock trial senior. 

At competitions, mock trial teams have to litigate the given court case, alternating between prosecution and defense. Practices help them prepare for what they are trying to prove or deny. People act as lawyers and act as witnesses, and these cases are argued against other schools. 

Each team has six members, three attorneys and three witnesses for each prosecution and defense case.

“It’s all about who can argue the law better and who can put together a better case,” said Maggie Kruzner, mock trial president. 

Another vital component of mock trial are the changes that are made to the case every three months. A witness can be added. A new piece of evidence can be found. Teams are always reviewing, adding to and altering their cases based on changes made in the case.

At the regional competition that GU attended, in Seattle at University of Washington’s Law School, there were around 20 teams that competed. The layout is similar to a tournament style. Teams were randomly paired in a bracket-like system and each team competed in four litigations.

Every competition allows for up to two wins based on the ballot voting by the two judges in the court room. The max number of wins that a team can have is eight.  

The GU A team scored seven and a half wins, and only received half a loss. This scoring is monumental for GU and the mock trial team is hopeful about their performance in the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS). 

“I think we are going to do well at ORCS,” Contino said. “We are going to try to use the changes that they have provided to create the best case, but also to surprise other teams, because I don’t think they are expecting what we are going to bring to the table.”

After coming back from regionals, the GU mock trial A and B teams have been putting in countless hours of work, effort and concentration in order to create a case that they feel strong enough to win with. With the new changes, the team is working on adapting the case and reviewing the general facts. 

ORCS are happening this weekend all around the Unites States, and GU will be headed to Geneva, Illinois to be a part of this nationwide competition. If they score high at ORCS, then they will head to the National Championship in Chicago, Illinois, which Gonzaga has attended a couple of times.

In preparation for ORCS, the two teams had a practice scrimmage against each other and invited lawyers in the community, professors and trial experts to judge and provide feedback. The School of Law and alumni have provided great support for the GU mock trial teams.

“GU law alumni are really passionate about what we do, and they invested in our success,” Kruzner said. 

Criminology and Political Science major, Kruzner, has been in mock trial since her freshman year, and she is the mock trial president this year, as a junior. Kruzner plans on attending law school after she graduates, and she said that mock trial is truly preparing her for what is to come. 

“Through mock trial, I get to learn the rules of evidence, I get to study what are actual legal principles, and it’s been really applicable in my job search,” Kruzner said. “It really cements the idea that I want to go off to law school. 

Mock trial is a place for people to study and practice what they might do in the future and to network with other schools around the nation. Kruzner said that mock trial has made her college experience so much more involved and has given a place for people with interest in law school to come together. 

“We can all talk about what we want to do in the future," Kruzner said. "We get to practice it and dip our toes in the water together."

Allie Noland is a staff writer.

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