The Three U’s of Theme and Theory

Theme and theory are fundamental to a Mock Trial case-in-chief. Case theory will act as the game plan while the theme will guide the jurors through the case-in-chief.

Case Theory

Finding a case theory is not impossible. When you receive the case material, you will be overwhelmed with a lot of information that may further or hold back your case. However, the ultimate goal is to take this mess of information and organize it into a compelling and intelligible story.

Firstly, remember the Three U’s! Understandable, Unimpeachable, Unforgettable. 

Understandable

Cases will have good and bad facts. Use a Venn diagram, like the one you learned in elementary school, to organize your good, bad, and neutral facts. This information can then be used to develop a theme or can be developed around your theory. It isn’t a bad idea to make use of bad facts. In addition, always mitigate your bad facts than letting the opposing team expose them.

Unimpeachable

Case theory has to be unimpeachable. In other words, your theory has to be a solid theory with absolutely no loopholes as it looks awful if your theory can be used against you.

Unforgettable

Most teams will forget this step as it tends to be the most difficult. The story not only has to compelling and intelligible, but it has to be unforgettable. The opposing team will probably have a compelling and intelligible story but you can always be one step ahead with an unforgettable theme and theory. This can be accomplished with the way you organize your case-in-chief. You’ll learn more about this later as you read the entire guide.

Theme

Themes are a part of human life. We have themes for everything. For example, stories are usually centered and organized around a central theme. Themes are supposed to get your point across in one short, catchy line, phrase, or word. For example, you may use the word “Honesty”. Or you may use the expression, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

O.J. Simpson trying on the gloves during the trial to prove theme and theory. Credit: Sam Mircovich/Reuters

Think about the OJ Simpson Murder Case. Lawyer Johnnie Cochran, OJ Simpson’s defense attorney, emphasized his theory of the case with this theme: “If the glove does not fit, you must acquit.” (FUN FACT: This was not his original theme) This was used because the glove found at the murder scene did not fit the hand of OJ Simpson and Cochran used that fact to generate a whole theme around it. Ultimately, OJ Simpson was controversially found not guilty.

Presentation and Movement around the Courtroom

How should I move around the courtroom?

Movement is crucial to the entire idea of Mock Trial. Movement, to a certain extent, allows you to set dominance and presence in the courtroom. As mentioned before, movement should only be done to a certain extent as it can also be distracting. This is where the saying, “Everything with a Purpose,” will play out. Every time you write something, say something or move, it should be done with a purpose.

Movement during an Opening Statement or Closing Argument

If your competition has jurors, you should ALWAYS face them even if the judge is scoring. If your competition has the judge as a juror or a scoring judge, you should then face the scoring judge. You shouldn’t be too close or too far from a jury.

As far as movement goes, you should move in a triangle. Your opening or closing will have three points, and you should move when transitioning between your points.

Movement during an Opening Statement and Closing Argument
In this graph, you will start with your introduction, go on to point 1, 2, and 3, and then come back for your ending remarks.

Movement during a Direct Examination

During a Direct Examination, you will face your witness straightforward, and you should NEVER block the view of the jurors. Regarding movement, you do not want to move as the witness is the focus at that moment. You should make subtle movements such as a step forward during important points or pivotal questions to get the attention of the jurors. These points or questions should help your case out in a major way as doing this often will be distracting.

Movement during Direct Examination
In this graph, this is where you should stand when giving a direct without blocking the jury.

Movement during a Cross Examination

During a Cross Examination, you will set the dominance and become the focus of the room. Your movement will play a major role in this as the witness will try to gain the attention of the room, directing it away from you. You also want to make the job of the witness as difficult as possible. You can do this by standing in the middle of the well, so the witness has to turn his head every time you ask a question or answers a question. You want to step forward during important points or pivotal questions to get the attention of the jurors. These points or questions should help your case out in a major way as doing this often will be distracting.

Movement during Cross-Examination
In this graph, this is where you should stand when giving a cross-examination.

Delivery is the Key

Although movement is important, the delivery of the case-in-chief is the most important. If the delivery of the information isn’t perfect, the jurors won’t listen to you, and everything you did from reading the case, developing a case theory, writing a cross, direct, opening, and closing will become irrelevant.

Step One, The Voice

Your voice is the most important tool in Mock Trial.

The first thing you should always do is project your voice and be LOUD. This will become evident as you step into a formal courtroom. The jurors, judge, opposing team, and the witness must be able to hear you for you to get your point across.

The second thing you should do is speak at a slower and steady pace. Often, you may think you might be speaking at a slow and steady pace, but in actuality, you are speaking very fast. As you get nervous speaking, you also tend to speak fast. This is important as controlling your pace will allow the jury to gather and process the information.

The third thing you should do is try speaking with different tones. Changing your tone will retain the attention of the jurors. It can also have an impact on your delivery. For example, being nice and having a “nice” tone to a defensive witness can benefit you as it shows the witness is defensive while you were nice to them.

Step Two, The Hands

Have you ever notice when someone gives a speech, and they move their hands? They’re using hand movement as a way to deliver their information and getting your attention. You can use hand movements in Mock Trial to deliver information and retain the jurors’ attention.

You should only use hand movements to a certain extent without being too distracting. It’s best to keep your hands loosely near you chest so when you make a hand movement in your delivery; it’s not too distracting. For example, you shouldn’t keep your hands at the sides of your waist since you’ll be making large hand movements and it will become distracting.

What is Mock Trial?

What is Mock Trial?

Mock Trial is a high school or college club. It is a simulated performance of a courtroom trial. There are attorneys, witnesses, judges, and jurors involved during each competition. You will either receive a civil or criminal case to work on during your Mock Trial season. Your goal is to piece together the entire case with your team and argue your point in a competition against another team.


Mock Trial Courtroom Setup

courtroom
In this graph, this is how a Mock Trial courtroom will be set up. The same setup is used for a classroom with slight modifications to the Jury.

This is a general courtroom setup that is generally followed whether or not you’re competing in a classroom or courthouse. Often, the judge will become the jury if you compete in a non-formal setting such as a classroom.

TIPS:

  • Always face the person/people you are talking to at the moment. For example, when you are questioning a witness, you should face them when asking questions.
  • The plaintiff/prosecution always sits near the jury and witness stand.

What’s Inside a Mock Trial Case File?

Stipulations – These are facts that have been agreed upon by both parties. For example, both sides have decided that the specific fact listed is true and cannot be argued against.

Witness Affidavits – These are written statements provided by witnesses in the case. You will primarily look at this information, and this is what makes up the bulk of the information provided in a case file. You will need to scrutinize each statement and rebuild the “puzzle” using this information

Exhibits – This is evidence. It can be documents, photographs, reports, items, etc. It will most likely be printed documents, photographs, and reports. Items are rarely seen as they can be prohibitively expensive for some teams and they may be different across teams.

Statutes/Case Law – This is a document that defines the law and controls your arguments so they cannot be too broad.

Jury Instructions – This a document that states the laws for the jurors. In real life, they are read by the judges, but in Mock Trial, judges don’t typically read them. However, it can be useful for your case theory.

Rules of Evidence/Procedures – The rules that set the boundaries for the court. It states what evidence is admissible and how a trial will play or act out.