Local high school students are getting firsthand knowledge of what it would be like to go before a judge — both as an attorney, witness, victim and suspect — while preparing for Newton County’s mock trial regional competition.
Local attorneys volunteer their time and expertise to coach squads of students from the county’s high schools, and judicial employees take time out of their schedules to coach the students in a courtroom setting, giving them a taste of what an actual trial is like.
“Mock trial is a great way for students to learn how our court system works,” said local attorney Brannon W. Carson, who will be serving as a judge this year. “It also teaches them how to deal with a fear that most people have — public speaking."
Students have their roles as well. One may be a witness to a crime; another a police officer who responded to the incident, while another might play the criminal. They must learn specific facts about their case and remember what their character experienced in order to testify efficiently.
Some students are prosecutors and others play defense attorneys; each side must question and cross examine witnesses as well as follow proper courtroom procedures, regarding admission of evidence, addressing the judge and speaking with a jury.
Sponsored by the Georgia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, the Georgia High School Mock Trial Program was created in 1988 and since then more than 1,200 teams of students, ages 14-19, from the state’s public and private high schools have participated in competitions.
During competitions, the students are judged by professional attorneys or judges and are evaluated on their ability to make a logical, cohesive and persuasive presentation, rather than on the legal merits of the cases, according to the bar association mock trial website.