In sitting as a juror for the case Brooks v. Lawrence & the Metro City Police Department, I observed the work of students in a witness and attorney role. Because of time constraints, the jury members were not allowed to fully discuss the implications of every issue, but we decided in favor of the defense, finding no liability. This, however, should not be taken as a reflection of the abilities of the students serving as lawyers or as witnesses for the plaintiff. The facts were simply on the side of the defense, as they sometimes can be, and this overwhelmed the efforts done by the students working on behalf of the plaintiff in this case.
Tom Joyce gave the opening statement for the plaintiff, a role in which he forgot a bit of what he was supposed to say, but was overall very effective. His goal was to connect with the jury, and he did just that, setting the stage for what was to come. David Lam gave the defense’s opening statement, and the strength of his statement was establishing a theme. Later, the defense would hit on the idea that the plaintiff was at fault, and the opening statement truly hammered this home. Overall, both of these individuals were effective in their questioning of witnesses. Because of the bulk of information that they were asked to remember, there were times when jurors could tell that they had forgotten to ask something, but overall, they were effective at getting what they wanted out of their witnesses.
Laura Rosenberger provided the closing statement for the plaintiff. She argued that Officer Lawrence was not legally justified in his actions. While the evidence was not really in her favor and she was fighting an uphill battle at this point in the mock trial, she did an excellent job of framing the ordeal in terms of what Lawrence had done wrong, taking the focus off of her client and her client’s actions. There could have been more emotion to this, but it was overall a very strong effort. Katherine Hile gave the defense’s closing statement, and as mentioned before, she did a good job of staying on theme. It was as if the defense understood that they had seized upon a critically good argument supported by the evidence, and they were relentless in pursuing that theme. She mentioned that the plaintiff had been asked to leave five times, and learning this information had to have swayed at least a few jurors.
Overall, both of these individuals played their roles well. As with the lawyers mentioned above, these two were not without their slip-ups during the course of the trial. There were some stumbles in asking questions, and at times, it seemed as if there were follow-up questions just waiting to be asked. They shined in their statements, though, and generally knew what they were doing. It may even have been true that the plaintiff’s attorneys did a better job in the presentation of the case. There are times, of course, where this does not matter, though, and no amount of good work from attorneys can overcome a bad case, which the jury perceived the plaintiff to have. This should not reflect poorly on the students who played the lawyers for the plaintiff however.
The witnesses all did an excellent job with their roles. This is one of the reasons why the lawyers were under so much pressure to do and say the right things. Not only did the witnesses remember what they were supposed to say, but they remembered all of the rules surrounding what could and what could not be said in testimony. This made the entire ordeal go off without a hitch, and it helped to get all of the relevant information into testimony so that the jury could evaluate that testimony when making our decision on the case. In particular, Zachary Wright did a good job of giving testimony that seemed to be difficult to manage and remember. There was good interplay between him and the plaintiff’s attorneys, and that entire exchange was very compelling for the jurors. Likewise, in the role of an expert, Andrew R.C. Davis did a nice job of taking an authoritative tone. The idea for his character was to display credibility, and his demeanor on the witness stand reflected that.
Tyler Sullivan handled a difficult situation as a witness and seemed to be pick up the lawyer when the lawyer could not remember some information. This was a good job, and it highlighted the nice work that the witnesses did on the stand. Overall, this was reflective of a very professional and well-prepared mock trial from their perspective. They displayed an understanding of the legal process and poise under what seemed to be tremendous pressure.
At the end of the day, the trial was interesting, and the jury was in agreement on which way to go. The case went for the defense, but with more time to deliberate, things could have been different perhaps. We were cut off to some extent by time, which made it difficult to truly get into all of the different issues that were given to us. Overall, the students who participated did a nice job of remembering information, and they acted in a manner that seemed professional enough for that particular setting. This includes lawyers from both sides and the witnesses, too.