Upper Iowa University senior Cory Mullins was named Outstanding Attorney for the Defense at the 2019 St. Paul Regional Mock Trial Tournament held at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, February 22 – 24. A financial management major from West Des Moines, Iowa, Mullins has been a member of the UIU team since it was founded in the fall of 2018.
“It was a great honor to be recognized for all of the hard work put into this program,” Mullins said. “Everyone on our mock trial team has been preparing all year for this competition and we really were going up against the best teams in the region, so I was very humbled by this award.”
Mullins joined the newly formed UIU mock trial team to make sure that he would want to pursue a law career after achieving his UIU degree. The experience has not only strengthened his decision, but also provided him some fundamental skills prior to starting law school.
“Specifically, I have learned to slow down, and become a more active listener and effective communicator,” Mullins said. “These are all very valuable skills that will benefit me in the future. Mock trial is also very challenging and requires an individual to think quickly in different ways. Even if they have no interest in law, these skills are still beneficial to any student pursuing any career field. I encourage anyone thinking about competing in mock trial to do it.”
While explaining the program’s early success, Mullins expressed his appreciation for coaches Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Tiffany Kragnes and Associate of Professor of Business Christopher Kragnes, and his teammates over the past two years.
“Both of our coaches challenge their students in ways that cannot be described,” Mullins said. “They have been mentors to all of us and have personally pushed me to do better in every skill category, far beyond what I thought myself capable. The entire team is really improving in our understanding of case procedures and analysis. Strategies are always changing during the course of a trial and team awareness has become one of our greatest strengths.”
Tiffany Kragnes reported the team has consistently improved on its attorney and witness skills. The UIU students were also credited with great improvement in understanding the rules of evidence, which their coach explained is sometimes the most difficult skill to learn.
“Cory really showcased his ability to think on his feet at Regionals,” Kragnes said. “He was on point in his cross-examination of witnesses, was creative in his objection arguments, and his closing arguments were by far the best I have seen. The reason why I say he excelled at these skills is because in each of these instances, you really cannot script what happens. An attorney does not know what the witness from another team will say. Therefore, Cory had to be flexible and ready for whatever was thrown his way.
“We always strive for continuous improvement each tournament,” she added. “Having a team member recognized in this way, showcases the hard work that the entire team undertakes throughout the year. It is especially an honor for Cory to be recognized at Regionals as this is the capstone of the mock trial season.”
In addition to Mullins, the 2019-20 UIU Mock Trial team included Alison Leuchtenmacher, a senior psychology/accounting major from Elgin, Iowa; Zion Stewart, a freshman criminal justice major from Waupaca, Wisconsin; Bronwyn Miller, a senior criminal justice/human services major from Dubuque, Iowa; Ashley Stitzer, a freshman English major from Kansas City, Missouri; Gabrielle Palomo, a freshman forensic science major from Homewood, Illinois; Bree Ellis, a junior biology major from Oelwein, Iowa; Elizabeth Goddard, a sophomore communication studies major from Clermont, Iowa; and Jermaine Thompson, a freshman criminal justice major from Normal, Illinois..
Both coaches expressed their gratitude for the leadership provided by this year’s participating seniors, but at the same time they are already looking forward to seeing next year’s mock trial team file their first case.