Mock trial team recognized for performance

Will Caverly

The newly formed Villanova Mock Trial Team recently won Outstanding New School in the American Mock Trial Association with their performance in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament Feb. 26 to Feb. 29.

The team, formed last semester after several attempts, was spearheaded by Brian M. Collins and Paul Vitale. They formed an eight-person team, including coach and ethics professor Arthur Shuman.

Collins, a senior, noted that when being compared to other schools such as Georgetown and Boston College, “This is something I thought Villanova really ought to have.”

The trial team consists of seven students, each with a specific interest in law, who will practice their knowledge of law and rhetoric techniques in an active environment. According to Collins, the benefits to one’s skills in this kind of environment are “enormous.”

In the college league, one trial is assigned to all teams, and their preparation leads up to the regional tournaments which ensure positions for the top five teams in the national championship.

The regional tournament consists of four separate instances of trial, two prosecution and two defense. The teams are informed of their role for each instance of the trial 30 minutes prior to the actual proceedings and use that time to organize tactics. This short amount of time means that the team must prepare every possible turn in the trial and the students themselves must play the witnesses in the case because of their small group size.

Vitale, a junior, who played both a neurologist and a medical examiner, for the defense and the prosecution respectively, received an award for Outstanding Witness in the tournament.

In order to play the witnesses, the students must prepare themselves with necessary information for questioning by both sides, known as cross-examination. This requires the person playing the witness to become an expert in the field in which they are being questioned. For instance, though he had limited prior knowledge of neurology, Vitale was required to learn the basics of the profession in order to perform his best in the tournament.

Several judges are assigned to evaluate the performance of each person in their specific role. Scores are tallied, and while a verdict is reached in the case, the real goal is the individual and team score which determines the winner.

Villanova’s performance in the four parts of the tournament came out to one win, one tie and two losses. The losses were to the College of William and Mary and the University of Pittsburgh, who qualified for places in the national tournament.

In the future, the team hopes to expand the size of the team and eventually connect with the theater department. According to Shuman, “The witness side of it is a perfect match for theatre department.”