About Mock Trial

A mock trial is a simulation of a criminal or civil trial in which students portray witness or attorney roles. Each year, the American Mock Trial Association releases a fictional case that is usually about 100 pages in length. Auburn’s teams use the witness affidavits, exhibits, relevant case law and statutes provided to write original directs, crosses, openings and closings, as well as develop objections. The case is updated before the national competition to include additional witnesses, exhibits, and facts. Cases alternate between criminal and civil cases each year. Each trial consists of opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations, and closing arguments. Students also must make and respond to evidentiary and/or procedural objections. Each participant is scored by a panel of judges based upon their performance, pursuant to AMTA scoring criteria. The judges are typically local attorneys who volunteer their time. No verdict is issued based on the facts of the case; rather, the winning team is the one that best argues its side of the case.

Most competitions consist of four rounds, in which teams compete twice as Plaintiff/Prosecution and twice as Defense. Rounds last approximately three hours each, and tournaments are held over a period of two or three days on weekends. Each team consists of 6-10 members who play both the Prosecution/Plaintiff and Defense sides of the case. Each side of the case has a total of six roles, three attorneys and three witnesses. Some members play an attorney on both sides, a witness on both sides, or an attorney on one side and a witness on the other.

Each mock trial is composed of 5 main parts:

  1. Pretrial: After the judges come in and situate themselves in the room, they generally ask if the two sides are ready to proceed. At this point, teams introduce themselves to the judges and offer documents to the presiding judge.
  2. Opening Statements: After pretrial, the judge asks for an opening statement from the Prosecution/Plaintiff, as well as one from the Defense. The attorney delivering this statement has 5 minutes to present the general issue at hand for the jury, giving them a roadmap for the trial. Who is the accused? What are they being accused of? What witnesses will we hear from? These speeches provide both the sides an opportunity to tell their story.
  3. Prosecution/Plaintiff Case in Chief: After opening statements, the Prosecution/Plaintiff will lay out its case. In their Case in Chief, the prosecution will call three witnesses who will help to bring out the facts for their side of the case and build a convincing story. Each of the three attorneys from the Prosecution/Plaintiff will conduct a direct examination with one witness, and the defense will be allowed to cross examine each witness as well.
  4. Defense Case in Chief: After the Prosecution/Plaintiff rests its Case in Chief, the Defense will call three witnesses to tell their side of the story on direct examination, and the attorneys from the opposing side will be allowed to cross examine them.
  5. Closing Arguments: After a brief recess following the Defense’s Cases in Chief, each side will give a closing argument. The closing argument is delivered by one attorney from each side and should bring together all of the facts of the case, persuading the jury to decide one way or the other. Both attorneys have 9 minutes for closing arguments. The Prosecution/Plaintiff attorney will start, followed by the Defense attorney, and then the Prosecution/Plaintiff attorney may use any remaining time up to 5 minutes for a rebuttal.

Last Updated: October 16, 2012