Elizabethtown College junior Sean Post has brought great recognition to Etown’s Mock Trial Team. Earlier this month, Post and his teammates competed in the Philadelphia Mock Trial Tournament from Feb. 4-5. The prosecution won 4-0.
The mock trial team is comprised of twenty members and two coaches. District magistrate Jayne Duncan serves as head coach and Dave Spelfogel ’11, works as the assistant coach for the team. The overall team consists of two sides, prosecution and defense, consisting of eight to ten people each.
When the team was given their case packet in the beginning of August, they jumped into planning. The team reviewed the list of the witnesses and used their time to get a really good feel for what their team strategy and theme should be. The team prepared for both prosecution and defense because they were unsure which side they would have to take. According to Post, everyone on the team worked to find new angles and viewpoints within the case. Each person contributed and brought different outlooks to the case. “We are one of the most diverse groups on campus,” Post said. “We have such a wide variety of majors, people and personalities, and also students from different grades. It’s a lot of fun to work with so many different people.”
The Philadelphia Mock Trial Tournament was held in Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center. The mock trial team was greeted by 30 other competing schools, including: Princeton University, Villanova University, University of Virginia (UVA) and Temple University. Etown was randomly selected to compete against UVA, which has one of the top law schools in the United States of America. In Post’s opinion, UVA is a strong school to compete against, and he knew the court case was going to be a good challenge for Etown.
Dr. Kyle Kopko ’05, assistant professor of political science and former captain of Etown’s mock trial, explained how the tournament works. The court trial was comprised of four rounds, two rounds each day. For two of the rounds within the murder trial, the team served as the prosecution and the other two served as defense. For each side of the prosecution and defense, there are three attorneys and three witnesses. The prosecution gets 25 minutes to present their case-in-chief. The team gets to call all three of their witnesses and go through direct examination using that amount of time. However, when objections are made, the clock stops. The cross-examinations, which are allotted 25 minutes, do not affect the prosecution’s time limit. The openings and closings are also granted a certain amount of time. Overall, each round lasts two to three hours.
Kopko mentioned that the team worked tirelessly throughout the semester. According to Kopko, the team met three or more evenings each week in order to prepare their case. “As a former captain, I can personally attest that preparing a mock trial is no easy task,” Kopko said.
Post’s mock trial team scored an impressive 52 points and 48 points from the two judges, earning more points than the opposing teams. The judges award points to each team member based on how well they fulfilled their roles within the trial. The maximum a team member can be awarded is ten points. Post was scored by four judges. He earned a perfect score with a total of 20 points for his well-played role in prosecution. During Sunday’s ending ceremony, Post was awarded the Outstanding Attorney Award.
“I was shocked,” Post said. “I ended up tying for the top attorney in the tournament with somebody from UVA, and when you look at the difference between UVA and Etown, just being in the same conversation as them, I think, is good because they get a lot of funding just for their mock trial program. All the students there are working to get to law school. They are one of the better teams. They always advance into the next round, and they did in this case as well.”
According to Kopko, “Sean performed at a higher level than student attorneys from major research universities and Ivy League institutions. This is quite an accomplishment and it’s something the entire college community should be proud of.”
Post attributes a lot of his success to his teammates. “I enjoy having to think on my feet,” he said, “and also the back and forth that you get when you make objections or cross opposing witnesses. To be able to have success with that, because it’s not just me working the case, it really involves the help of my teammates and coming together to sell our case to the judge.” In regards to the final outcome of the trial, the Etown team scored 4-4. However, Post stated, “When we found out that we won both ballots in the fourth round, it was really exciting because we played a solid team, very evenly match, and we ended up winning that round.”
Post also mentioned that, aside from winning a quite honorable award, this competition has far outshined others. “It was probably the best run tournament that [my team] ever participated in. The trial was held in an actual court room with a judge sitting in an actual judge chair. There was such an authenticity to it. The atmosphere was very positive.” The team has regularly competed in the Quaker Classic Invitational Tournament in the fall at the University of Pennsylvania.
When asked about his plans for future competitions, Post stated that the team will prepare for next year by holding practices with other teams and scrimmaging against the other Etown mock trial team. Although Post is not planning on becoming a lawyer, he thoroughly enjoys participating in mock trial. Post is majoring in accounting and minoring in history.
Post has been involved with Etown’s Mock Trial Team since his first year. Post said, “It’s been a great experience; the challenge makes me want to do it every year.”
He continued, “There is a sick sense of satisfaction that we all get [from mock trial]. There is obviously something about it that we want to do it. It’s very intense, and it’s very competitive.”