What is mock trial?
Mock trial is an extracurricular student group that performs realistic criminal trials with students performing as attorneys, witnesses, clerks, and bailiffs. Students worldwide compete in mock trial competition from middle school to college. Students learn skills in areas including public-speaking, acting, writing, and the law.
Dos Pueblos High School has two mock trial teams, JV and varsity. Both teams are coached by mock trial alumni and experienced attorneys. Our teams compete in county competitions in February, with our varsity team often moving on to the state competition in April. Our varsity team also competes in the Empire Mock Trial World Championship in the fall.
If you would like to see an example of a mock trial competition, here is a full video of our team in action at the 2016 state final.
Why should I do mock trial?
Mock trial is an extraordinarily beneficial extracurricular for students, regardless of your interest in pursuing law as a career. You will get the chance to work with like-minded peers and experienced coaches who give up their time for our program. Students will learn about the law and how actual trials are conducted, but will also learn techniques for delivering a more compelling presentation, how write persuasively, and will even develope acting skills.
To learn more about why DP students do mock trial, see the testimonials from our DPMT alumni on the Home page.
How do I get started?
Our summer camps are a great way to get introduced to mock trial. They are open to any incoming 7th-12th graders, regardless of the high school you attend or plan to attend. See the Summer Camp page for more information.
If you are unable to participate in the summer camps or summer has already passed, we encourage you to look for information on tryouts. Tryouts for both teams typically begin in early September. Information regarding specific dates and tryout materials will be posted on the Tryouts page once it is released. If you have any more unanswered questions about how to get started doing mock trial please contact us. Visit the Contact page for more information.
What is the time commitment for mock trial?
Both our teams practice twice a week (usually Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons). Practices begin around mid-September. The final competition for JV team members is in February. For varsity team members, the season may end anytime between February and April depending on whether the team advances to the state competition. In addition to practices, both teams also begin scrimmaging against other high schools in November.
What do I need to do before I tryout?
You do not need any previous mock trial experience to tryout! We do encourage you to take your time looking through the tryout materials and deciding which statements and examinations you would like to perform. Think about any movements or hand motions that could be added to enhance your presentation. You may memorize either or both the chosen statement and examination, but it is not required that you do so.
Can I participate in mock trial in addition to a sport or other extracurricular?
Yes! Many of our mock trialers play club sports, high school sports, marching band, concert band, ASB, and other extracurricular activities outside of mock trial. Our practice schedule is designed to avoid conflicts with other activities as much as possible. Just let our coaches know if you have any concerns about practice times and conflicts with other activities.
How many people are on each mock trial team?
There are a total of 19 roles per team. However, both teams take a few extra players, so JV often begins with around 22 members and varsity with around 20.
What are the roles in mock trial and how do I decide which one would be best for me?
Roles in mock trial include attorneys, witnesses, a bailiff, and an official and unofficial timekeeper. The official timekeeper is the clerk. Throughout the season, roles often change. Your initial role preference may change, your coaches may decide your best qualities suit a different role, or they may just need someone to fill in for a different role. Regardless, many mock trialers play a variety of roles throughout their mock trials careers, and even within a single season.
The chart below shows the time commitment typically necessary for each role (green being the least time, red being the most), the total number of people that will fill each role per team, and the typical traits of people who play each role. See below the chart for more information on each role.
Take this quiz to see what role might be best for you!
Expert witnesses + cops
Total Number Per Team
3 (2 experts + 1 cop)
Analytical; quick thinker
Hard-working; captivating storyteller
Hard-working; up for a challenge; poised
Hard-working; want to learn more about the law
Interested in acting; adaptable
Commanding; eager to learn more about mock trial
Focused; eager to learn more about mock trial
Confident; eager to learn more about mock trial
Attorneys: There are a total of eight attorneys on each team, four on the prosecution side and four on the defense. Of the four on each side, there is a pretrial attorney, an opening attorney, a middle attorney, and a closing attorney.
The pretrial attorney argues a four-minute statement and a two-minute rebuttal addressing a pretrial matter provided in each year's trial materials. They are given a set of cases that pertain to the pretrial issue which they will cite in their argument. The pretrial issue is often a debate about whether a specific piece of evidence should or should not be admitted in court. During their argument, the judge will interrupt to ask clarifying questions (see an example of pretrial arguments and rebuttals here at 0:40 - 31:50). For this reason, pretrialers are often very analytical and can think on their feet quickly.
An opening attorney delivers the opening statement in addition to a couple direct and cross examinations. This opening statement is typically around 3:30 minutes long and is meant to tell a story and outline what information each of their witnesses will provide to strengthen their case (see an example of opening statements here at 35:47 - 43:31). If you are up for a somewhat more time-consuming role and you enjoy telling an audience a story, this is the role for you.
Similarly to an opening attorney, a closing attorney delivers the closing argument in addition to a their direct and cross examinations. This argument is usually around 5:30 minutes long and takes place after all the witnesses have spoken. It summarizes what was heard during the trial and finishes off the trial with a final argument about why they're right and the other side is wrong (see an example of closing arguments and rebuttals here at 1:52:10 - 2:04:53). This is the most time-consuming role, but it is also extremely rewarding. Closers are usually people who are up for a challenge and are comfortable delivering a convincing argument.
The middle attorney does not deliver any statements or arguments. They do conduct direct and cross examinations of witnesses, and usually will take or more examinations than the other two attorneys to balance the work load between the three roles. If you are interested in taking on an attorney role but aren't sure about the longer statements, consider trying the middle attorney role.
Witnesses: There are a total of eight witnesses, four on each side. This always includes an expert witness on each side, a police officer on the prosecution, and five other character witnesses. All witnesses will memorize a direct examination (around 2-4 minutes of questions and answers) and use their knowledge of their witness statement to answer cross examination questions on the fly.
Expert witnesses and police officers are always professional and are meant to provide their expert analysis on the the case (see an example of a direct and cross examination of a police officer here at 44:25 - 53:58 and an example of a direct and cross examination of an expert witness here at 1:19:38 - 1:27:10). This role would be great for you if you think you want to be a witness, but aren't very comfortable with acting.
Character witnesses include the defendant in the case (or the person being charged with the crime) and sometimes the victim of the case, or a relative of the victim, or a friend of the defendant's (see an example of a direct and cross examination of a defendant here at 1:45:05 - 1:52:00). Because of this, character witnesses require the most acting skills and are usually the most entertaining part of any trial, so if you are comfortable performing, this is probably the role for you.
Bailiffs, clerks, and unofficial timekeepers: There in one bailiff, one clerk and one unofficial timekeeper on each team.
The bailiff's role is to call the court to order and swear in witnesses. This is one of the least time-consuming roles in mock trial. If you feel you can take control of a courtroom or don't have time to commit to a bigger role, this may be right for you.
The clerk's job is keep time during the trial. Each element of the trial, from the pretrial arguments to the direct and cross examinations to the closing arguments, has a maximum amount of time allotted. It is the clerk's job to keep track of these times and notify the court when time is nearly expired. Clerks also require less time to prepare for competitions, so if you aren't comfortable making a bigger time commitment, consider the clerk role.
The unofficial timekeeper's job is make sure the clerk is timing correctly. This involves taking their own times for each section of the trial and alerting the court when your time differs significantly from that of the clerk. Similarly to the clerk and bailiff roles, this is a great role to get more introduced to mock trial, while not taking on a more significant time commitment.