Mock trial team has its day in court

UIU Mock Trial team members who competed in the team’s debut tournament at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, were (front, l-r) Elizabeth Creveling, Erin Drahozal, Alison Leuchtenmacher, Josie Roulson; (back) Kortney Lightfoot, Ashley Brock, Cory Mullins, Chris Kragnes Jr., Breanna Ellis and Josh Norris. Not pictured are additional team members Bronwyn Miller and Hunter Clark. The team is coached by professors Christopher Sr. and Tiffany Kragnes.

Court is now in session for Upper Iowa University’s inaugural mock trial team. Team coaches, Associate Professor of Business Christopher Kragnes Sr. and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Tiffany Kragnes, announced in November that the newly organized team enjoyed success in its first two contests. The UIU team first posted three wins, four losses, and one tie at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition, many of the team members were listed on individual scoring ballots for outstanding performances. The Peacocks later received accolades for their roles as attorneys and witnesses at the Creighton University BlueJay Open in Omaha, Nebraska.

“We feel we have a great foundation of students to build mock trial into a nationally competitive program,” Christopher Kragnes Sr. said. “The hard work and dedication shown by a group of students, none of which had any other mock trial experience, has been incredible. The work ethic exhibited by each of them provides us great confidence in developing a sustainable program!”

Two judges oversee mock trial rounds and results are based upon each individual judge’s scoring. Thus, four rounds would equal eight separate opportunities for a win, loss or a tie. Each invitation competition uses the American Mock Trial Association rules as far as procedure and how the tournament is run. However, each year the case problem changes. For example, this year the contest featured a criminal case, while last year was a civil case. The case materials are released in mid-August for review by the teams.

“Practice is key to developing an effective mock trial team,” Christopher Kragnes Sr. said. “The most important part is simply learning the facts of the case. Then the team starts to develop theories of how to best prosecute or defend.  It is a complete team effort in developing the theories. It is also not just about the attorneys. The witnesses play an important and essential role, which can be even more crucial than an attorney. Witnesses are prepared by their own teammate attorney, but they too must be prepared for cross-examination from the opposing team.”

“Any student can be a part of mock trial,” Tiffany Kragnes added. “We have a variety of majors represented on our current mock trial team. Mock trial prepares you to be able to think and rationalize a problem, which are all good qualities to have in any profession. Participating students learn how to problem-solve and think on their feet. At the tournaments, they must be able to work through anything that is thrown at them. This could be an objection by the other side or a crazy ruling on admissibility of evidence by the judge.”

The 2017-18 UIU Mock Trial team includes co-captains Alison Leuchtenmacher, a junior accounting/psychology major from Elgin, Iowa, and Chris Kragnes Jr., a senior management major from Fayette Iowa; Elizabeth Creveling, a freshman criminal justice major from Anamosa, Iowa; Erin Drahozal, a junior English major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Josie Roulson, a freshman elementary education major from West Union, Iowa; Kortney Lightfoot, a sophomore criminal justice major from Dubuque, Iowa; Ashley Brock, a senior forensic science major from Severance, Colorado; Cory Mullins, a senior financial management major West Des Moines, Iowa; Breanna Ellis, a freshman forensic science major from Oelwein, Iowa; Josh Norris, a senior forensic science major from Huxley, Iowa; Bronwyn Miller, a junior criminal justice major from Dubuque, Iowa; Hunter Clark, a sophomore criminal justice major from Carlisle, Iowa.

“I didn’t know what I was signing up for until I showed up to the first meeting,” Leuchtenmacher said. “Initially, we started with what happened and now we are getting into more of the rules of mock trial. It is an amazing experience. It doesn’t matter what occupation a student is striving for. Mock trial helps cultivate many skills like teamwork and quick thinking. While the experience gives me a basic idea of what it is like to be in a courtroom, the mock trial program is actually a great opportunity for all majors.”

To prepare for the competitions, Chris Kragnes Jr. explained that the team practices at least twice a week, running through various individual scenarios and complete trials. While acknowledging that the team has a number of areas to improve on, he is extremely proud of the team’s early success.

“I think that the UIU mock trial team is going to achieve greatness in the future,” Chris Kragnes Jr. said. “This first year is a great learning experience for everyone involved, and I think the students who continue on the team next year are going to elevate the program to great heights. Although I’m a senior, I will definitely continue supporting the program in the years to come.”

(Update January 22, 2018: Upper Iowa University’s Mock Trial Team competed at the Dr. Donald P. Racheter Invitational Tournament at Central College, Pella, Iowa, January 20-21.  The competition was in a 2-2 format, with two trials occurring on Saturday and two on Sunday.  The participating Peacocks included Captain Alison Leuchtenmacher, Ashley Brock, Bronwyn Miller, Cory Mullins, Josh Norris, Breanna Ellis, Elizabeth Creveling and Hunter Clark.

Several team members received mentions for their performance as attorneys and witnesses.  Each of the UIU attorneys, Alison Leuchtenmacher, Bronwyn Miller, and Cory Mullins, were given mentions by the judges. Mullins receiving six mentions on both the prosecution and defense sides.  Meanwhile, witnesses Josh Norris, Ashely Brock, Breanna Ellis, and Elizabeth Creveling received judges’ mentions for their roles.

Mock Trial coaches Tiffany and Chris Kragnes could not be more proud of the team. In a joint statement, they said, “The team is constantly improving every time they compete.  It was been an incredible process to watch as they completed their third tournament. They started the season with no previous mock trial experience and have picked up on legal theory and thought so quickly.  It is amazing to watch an attorney overcome an objection with legal argument and reason, and watch a witness overcome a tough cross-examination. They are constantly thinking up new ways to handle the various challenges thrown their way.”)

The remaining mock trial schedule includes a return trip to Macalester College for the Regional competition.


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