The winter weather had set it in, and they were all wondering if it would even be possible to make the trip. Bethany Lutheran College’s (BLC) newly-formed mock trial team was about to leave for a six-hour journey to the America Mock Trial Association (AMTA) regional meet, on February 8-10, 2019. This was to be an historic event—months in the making. Fortunately, after the inclement weather cleared, the group of nine students and three coaches arrived safely in Wheaton, Illinois, for the competition.
This would be the first-ever mock trial event for the Bethany contingent since forming in the spring of 2018. To prepare for the inaugural competition, the group staged a mock trial in Mankato at the Blue Earth County Courthouse in May 2018, and recently traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, for a tune up before the regional meet.
Silas Petersen, a junior at BLC, was one of the team’s participants. He talked about the anticipation leading up to the first competitive event.
“We knew it would be challenging since it was our first year, but we had a great group and good coaches so we felt prepared. We got to participate in a scrimmage a few weeks before the tournament at Macalester (St. Paul, Minn.) so we had an idea how court would work and what the competition would be like.”
The preparation and scrimmage paid off for the team. The group came one trial away from advancing into the next round of competition, competing against perennial powerhouses including Ohio State University and the University of Notre Dame.
In first round balloting, Bethany’s plaintiff’s attorneys, including seniors Olivia Lippert and Maddy Elmquist together with Petersen took first, second and fourth places, and in their last round, the team took two out of the four top positions. Bethany’s defense team, including David Evans (junior), Madison Barber (senior), and David Lee (freshman) were also successful in winning ballots and ranked among the top attorneys.
Petersen thoroughly enjoyed the event, but believes the experience was beneficial beyond the competition.
“I definitely feel like my confidence for public speaking improved. I learned a lot about the rules of evidence, since we faced teams that would make objections to our witnesses’ testimony. Overall, I learned the hard work and stress that goes into a trial, but also how rewarding it is to see it all come together.”
Assistant Professor of Legal Studies Sara Edwards J.D. agrees, and is looking forward to a bright future for the mock trial team.
“It was a terrific experience for these students. They all learned that they could competently compete at a high level, against much larger institutions, and still be successful. As long as the team is fully prepared, and can think on their feet when faced with objections to their evidence, they have an opportunity to move forward. It’s my hope that we continue to grow our team membership, and perhaps someday win a national championship.”