It’s just another Thursday night in the basement of Williams. The topic: Aggravated Murder.
Looking around, there aren’t faces of jury members, upset relatives and journalists. Instead, there are fellow mock trial club members, taking notes on the opening. They’re preparing to act as both lawyers and witnesses in several upcoming competitions.
But it is not just another night — there is an energy of excitement in the air. A few weekends ago marked a big step in the club’s roughly three-year existence.
The mock trial club has officially won its first invitational — the University of Scranton’s Inaugural Royal Invitational on Oct. 20 — since the club’s founding in 2016.
Three members of the team who competed also won awards for their respective roles in the courtroom.
The awards included the Best Witness award, Best Attorney award and the Best Overall Witness award for the entire tournament.
“We didn’t know we were going to win,” said Nathan Tokala, ‘20, one of the captains for the mock trial club and winner of the Best Attorney award. “Because of the way that tournaments work, three wins and one loss isn’t a guaranteed win.”
The following weekend, the team also found success at the University of Pennsylvania’s Quaker Classic. The members ended the weekend with a winning record of five wins and three losses.
But the mock trial club doesn’t want to bask in this early-season success. The members are determined to continue this success throughout the year.
“It is rewarding and just gives us the motivation to do better at our next tournaments,” said Sara Boyd, ‘21, winner of the Best Overall Witness award for the entire tournament at Scranton’s invitational.
The team plans to compete in two invitationals and three or four scrimmages before regionals, the first round of the American Mock Trial Association’s annual national tournament.
The American Mock Trial Association is the governing body for intercollegiate mock trial competitions. According to its website, roughly 700 teams from 400 colleges and universities compete in one of the association’s 32 regional competitions. The winners of these competitions move on to national-level competitions.
Success in the mock trial courtroom is not the only thing that excites the members of the club — the group has grown in membership in the past few years.
“With the new organization, in our first two years our only goal was to get to the regional competition and actually compete with a full team,” Tokala said.
Now, the club has enough members to have two teams, which Tokala cites as more evidence of how far the club has come.
Joshua Young, ‘23, a new member of the mock trial club and winner of the Best Witness award at the Scranton invitational, said he wanted to join the club to strengthen his professional aspirations.
“I wanted to do mock trial in high school, but I didn’t have the opportunity to,” Young said. “I want to become a lawyer, and I thought it would be a good club to help me develop those types of skills. Also, it is a good way to meet new people, because I’m a freshman and need friends.”
Learning public speaking skills, understanding law and the opportunity to make lasting friendships are aspects of the club that appeal to many members.
Zoe Topaz, ‘21, the other captain of the mock trial club, said the mock trial club is not done growing yet.
“In the future, I would love if people were competing to get on the mock trial team,” Topaz said. “I want us to be a team where people are like, ‘Wow, I want to go to Lehigh to be on the mock trial team.’”