April 12, 2002

U of C's mock trial team Ringo places third in nation

The University's mock trial team placed third at the National Championship Mock Trial Tournament last weekend, the highest ranking that the team has achieved in its five-year history. The tournament, which was held in Des Moines, Iowa, featured 64 teams from around the country. In addition to the third-place finish, the U of C team also won the honorable mention award from the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) for good sportsmanship.

"It was a surprise to be able to go so far, but we worked hard," said Rachel Goldman, a first-year in the College and the captain of the Ringo Starr team.

This year the Mock Trial team had four different teams, each named after one of the Beatles. Goldman was in charge of the Ringo team, which was almost entirely composed of students competing in collegiate mock trial for the first time.

After placing first in the South Bend Regional Tournament, Team Ringo was the only U of C team to receive a bid for the national tournament this year. They did not expect to leave the national tournament with a trophy, but they soon realized that their hard work had paid off.

"It's one of the most intense things I've ever doneĀ…I've never been as proud as I have been with my team members," said Kevin Curran, a third-year in the College and a member of the Ringo team.

The Ringo team had been plagued with difficulties all season. Team bonding is particularly important in mock trial. Competitive trials require improvisation and the ability to work on the spot with other members, yet four of the eight original Ringo team members quit the team to devote more time to their schoolwork.

"The new members took the time to learn what they needed to," Goldman said. During Winter quarter, mock trial demands a commitment of at least three meetings a week, numerous weekend tournaments, and frequent scrimmages at the Law School where the different teams compete against each another for practice.

Before the school year begins, the president of mock trial receives a packet that outlines a certain trial. All the mock trial teams around the country work on that one trial, each team practicing the roles of both prosecutor and defense. Ashley Miller, a fourth-year in the College and the president of the U of C mock trial, described it as a "cross between acting and improvising" that requires a great deal of personal preparation and a strong understanding of the legal system.

This year's case was a fictional trial concerning a murdered partner in an ad firm and his senior associate who was being charged with the killing. The tournament consisted of four rounds in which two schools would confront each other in a mock courtroom. The rounds would last from two to three hours and was an entire trial that included an opening, three witnesses, and a closing argument. Two judges cast ballots to decide the winning school in each round; out of the eight ballots, Team Ringo won six and lost two.

"At the end of our final round, I was shocked at how well we had done, how far we had come from our first trial," said Nitin Sacheti, a first-year in the College and a Team Ringo member.

The intense tournament lasted all weekend, but the Mock Trialers still made time for their favorite tradition: Steak and Shake. "I don't know how it started," Curran said, but wherever they are, the mock trial team finds and frequents the restaurant.