FROM THE WITNESS CHAIR TO LAW SCHOOL

Mock Trial Program Celebrates 15 years of Success

by Donna McBride

A slender elderly woman shuffled up the aisle to make her way to the witness chair. Her cane helped carry the burden of her soon-to-be testimony, which had probably caused a few of the gray hairs that were visible on her head. Once sworn in, she wrapped her shawl tighter around her shoulders as her frail voice answered the attorney’s questions.

This might sound like a typical day in a trial at Pinal County Superior Court in Florence – but not on this day. That “lady” was actually teenager Lindsey Mau of Apache Junction High School. Lindsey was showcasing her skills at the Mock Trial Competition hosted by Juvenile Court and its Community Advisory Board (CAB).

Lindsey was so good in her role as a witness that she made history as one of the best witnesses of all time in the competition’s 15-year history. Even the superior court judges, who were in the room that day, remember her stellar performance. She came dressed for the part, acted out her role and demanded the courtroom’s attention. Her team stood out from the competitors by creating lifelike personalities out of fictional characters.

That was back in 2005. Fast-forward to 2017. She is now Lindsey M. Lamey, J.D. and is married with a young son. Did her mock trial experience affect her in any way? It must have! In December she obtained a Juris Doctor degree, and recently took the Arizona Uniform Bar Exam to become an attorney.

Lindsey reveals that, “Mock Trial influenced my career path by allowing me an opportunity to explore the criminal justice system through a hypothetical case. After participating on the team, I knew my career path would take me into the world of litigation.”

Another success story is Dennis Hull from Miami High School, who was involved with his high school team and now as a senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He’s about to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and undergo training to become a Combat Systems Officer. Dennis is part of the Mock Trial Team at the CS-28 “Blackbirds” USAF Academy, where students have traveled throughout the country competing.

Dennis said being on the high school team took him out of his comfort zone and allowed him to do some traveling. Reflecting on the influence the Pinal County Mock Trial Competition had on his career path, Dennis shared that it “did a tremendous amount to develop public speaking skills and confidence. These skills have been and will continue to be invaluable in helping me speak before a large audience and give professional briefings.”

The courthouse hosts roughly 250 middle and high school students in March, as educators and family members (silently) cheer the teams on! The day is fast-paced, high-energy and nerve-racking as the students perform in front of official judges. The day ends with team and individual awards in each division. Schools register for the free competition in October and then spend over four months practicing, strategizing and perfecting their roles as attorneys, witnesses, bailiffs and other roles in the courtroom. Pinal County is the only county in the state that offers such a competition for middle school and high school students.

The Mock Trial Competition has been growing steadily over the past 15 years thanks to dedicated volunteers and Juvenile Court. Partnerships with attorneys from the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, city courts and justice courts have provided mentoring to our students as they perfect their skills. Schools, such as Cactus Middle School, under the coaching of teacher Lisa Flores, received an A+ rating because of their program. In fact, Casa Grande Elementary Schools have included a Mock Trial class in their curriculum.

It takes a great deal of time and energy to make the competition happen. But in the end, we provide opportunities to educate youth about the justice system and build character, confidence and lifelong skills for our students. And the outcome is worth it. Just ask Lindsey and Dennis!

2017 Mock Trial Competition Champions

Middle School Division I
1st Place: Casa Grande Middle School #1 team
2nd Place: Cactus Middle School #2 Team

Middle School Division 2
1st Place: Villago Middle School #2 Team
2nd Place: Villago Middle School #1 Team

High School Division:
1st Place: Poston Butte High School
2nd Place: Miami High School #2 Team