Troy University’s first mock trial team wins awards at first competition

TROY students brought home the Spirit of AMTA award and a Best Attorney award.

TROY students brought home the Spirit of AMTA award and a Best Attorney award.

Troy University’s first ever mock trial team competed at the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) Jackson Regional held Feb. 16-18 in Jackson, Mississippi, bringing home two awards.

The AMTA, the governing body of intercollegiate mock trials in the United States, hosts regional and national tournaments for mock trial teams across the country. Over 7,000 undergraduate students compete in these events each year. 

In the competitions, teams are provided a hypothetical trial case and team members are assigned to the roles of attorneys and witnesses. Attorneys are responsible for preparing direct examination questions for their side’s witnesses, cross examinations for the opposition side’s witnesses and opening and closing statements. Witnesses are responsible for learning their characters’ affidavits, relevant exhibits and answering direct and cross examination questions.

This year’s case was a “complicated criminal matter” with two possible defendants and five possible charges, said Dr. Adam Rutkowski, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and one of the team’s coaches. The TROY team started preparing in early September.

“The students met with their coaches once a week for a three-hour group practice and spent countless hours preparing on their own,” he said. “There were many late nights for both team members and coaches writing and editing questions, developing witness characterizations and organizing the trial materials. Through this, students learn valuable critical thinking and public speaking skills.” 

Dr. Adam Rutkowski, Abbey Knight, and Lisa Harden
Dr. Adam Rutkowski and Lisa Harden with Abbey Knight (center) and her award for Best Attorney

Hosted by the Mississippi College School of Law, the competition began with an opening ceremony followed by four, three-hour rounds of trials. Judges included law school faculty, local attorneys and judges and law students.

TROY’s team divided into two teams: the Cardinal Team—Jordan Brumit, Andrew Cerf, Karli Evon, Holyn Hedrick, Abbey Knight, Eva Reese, Trinity Thomas and Jheran Turners—and the Silver Team—Lauren Capps, Kenlee Hinson, Emily Norris, Sam McCollum, Grace Shellhouse, Devin Toole and Ada Zeigler. The team is also coached by Lisa Harden, a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Criminology, and Sociology.

The Cardinal Team received a Spirit of AMTA award, which is given to teams that exhibit professionalism, courtesy and kindness during their time at the competition. Abbey Knight, a senior criminal justice major, won an individual Best Attorney award in recognition of outstanding trial advocacy. 

While the team is associated with an academic trial procedures class held in the fall, students of all degree programs can take the class and are eligible to join the team. 

“We have many spots to fill for next year’s team,” Rutkowski said, “and will be announcing a recruiting and informational meeting soon that will be held in early April.”