Mock trial prepares students for real thing

The classroom and the courtroom became one in the same as students representing the American Mock Trial Association competed this weekend on FAMU’s campus.

Two out of the three teams that represented FAMU qualified for the national competition in Des Moines, Iowa – where the competition originated.

While the competition has been conducted for many years, FAMU has been a participant for the last 11 years, placing in the top 10 for all but one of those years.

FAMU’s mock trial teams are sponsored by the Hatchett Pre-law Society.

As the host institution and the only historically black college or university represented in the AMTA tournament, FAMU has three teams competing in this year’s event.

Spearheading the efforts of FAMU’s mock trial association is professor of the School of Business and Industry, William Ravenell.

Ravenell, also an attorney, assists the trial teams with both supplies and logistical support.

The three teams comprised of seven members are a blend of students from several academic disciplines.

One factor that all members of FAMU mock trial have in common is that they are all pre-law minors. FAMU does not currently offer an undergraduate law program.

Selection for FAMU’s mock trial team is achieved through two methods.

Students may sign up for a course dealing with mock trial procedure and those who exhibit substantial progress may be given the option of becoming team members.

Other students find their way into the ranks of the team by attending the weekly meetings conducted by FAMU’s mock trial association.

“The purpose of the mock trial event is to thoroughly familiarize students with the trial process,” said Tyra Mason, coordinator and pre-law advisor to FAMU’s mock trial teams.

All the teams will prepare the same criminal case and instead of the traditional verdict, judges use a ballot system to score the participants.

“The focus of the mock trial event is more on presentation, not the verdict,” Mason said.

First-year team member Davon Cummings, 22, talked about the benefits of being a member on the mock trial team.

“This helps students who will deal with any aspect of law in their careers,” Cummings said, a sophomore from Davie.

“If you want to deal with the law, you need to know how it works,” Cummings said.

Other, senior mock trial team members echoed Cummings comments.

Sean Villery-Samuel, 20, a sophomore from Houston, extolled the value of an event like the mock trial program.

“It definitely gives you insight into the legal process,” Villery-Samuel said.

Still other team members expressed appreciation of the mock trial event as a tool to potentially change traditional views about HBCUs.

“This event gives us a chance to compete on both an academic and intellectual level all while commanding the respect of members of other institutions,” said Conti Moore, a 19 year-old sophomore from Colorado Springs, CO.

Moore said that while sports achievements of HBCU’s are indeed noteworthy, but there is also a scholarly element found at these institutions.

“We’re about more than simply athletics,” Moore said.

FAMU potentially faced up to 23 colleges and universities as participants in the Southern region of the AMTA.