By Emma Stenzel
Managing & Advertising Editor
Pre-law students from Saint Mary’s University participated in the school’s first annual Mock Trial on Oct. 27, where they acted as the attorneys in a hotly contested case mirroring an authentic trial.
Larry Price, assistant business professor and the pre-law advisor at SMU, arranged the trial to provide the university’s pre-law students with an opportunity to gain experience in lawsuits and court proceedings. He said the trial would also generate interest and understanding in the SMU community about the legal system, as students of all majors were invited to participate as jurors, witnesses and audience members.
“We wanted to give the students an opportunity where they can succeed on their own,” said Price. “They were able to act through their own initiative and improve in their learning.”
Price said that in this particular case, “the plaintiff alleged that the defendant served alcohol at a party to a student who was drunk and was therefore responsible when the student crashed into the plaintiff’s car, injuring him.”
Pre-law students Anna Sonday, Loren Galloway and Morgan Carlson represented the plaintiff of the case, while Colin Norris, Marty Purintun and Andrew Seifert acted for the defendant.
Price said that, though the two panels of student jurors agreed the cases were skillfully presented on both sides, they found favor with the defense.
“I know both juries had to take some time deliberating, so both sides must have presented fairly compelling arguments,” said Carlson, who plans to attend law school next year.
Price said he received positive feedback from audience members and student participants, who reportedly gained valuable experience in legal proceedings.
“It was beneficial in that this gave me a chance to see law in action,” said Sonday. “This obviously wasn't a real case, but it's daunting to think of the effect one witness statement or one comment by a lawyer can have on the jury. All the work we put into the trial came down to one verdict – a verdict that would have had staggering implications in the real world.”
The Mock Trial was the result of the hard work and collaboration of many people in the SMU community, said Price. Once Price determined what case script the students would use, he said he allowed them about two weeks to work in groups to prepare for the trial. He also arranged for Nancy Wiltgen, an SMU staff member in alumni affairs, to act as the judge during the trial. Wiltgen previously worked as an attorney for over 20 years in the prominent Minneapolis law firm Leonard, Street and Deinard.
Students from SMU’s theatre department played the witnesses in the case, including Bryan Moore, Jacob Rivet, Tom Conry and Alex Green. In addition, students Alex Akers and Taylor Marshall-Miernicki helped design the set for the trial.
For more information about the Mock Trial, email Price at email@example.com or view the trial online at https://tegr.it/y/6qu9.