On October 16, 17, and 18, the Luther College Mock Trial team competed in their first tournament of the 2020-2021 academic year. This tournament was hosted virtually through Zoom by Loras College, with 12 teams virtually present at the event.
Participants competed with a civil case about a soon-to-be-married person who died due to drinking wine containing pesticides. There were two options to approach this case: to sue the person’s future mother-in-law for poisoning the drink, or sue the winery for their negligent work. According to the Mock Trial team’s faculty advisor, Professor of Political Science Michael Engelhardt, the team had little time for preparation for their case due to Luther’s revised academic calendar this semester as it positioned the Mock Trial at an earlier time than it had been in years past.
“The case usually comes out in August,” Professor Engelhardt said. “but this year it didn’t come out until September.”
Since all of the students did not arrive on campus until October for Fall Quarter One, the team had only a few weeks to organize their case. Although preparations had to be made swiftly, Luther Mock Trial team members, Erik Johnson (’21) and Katherine Bellefeuille (’23), expressed their satisfaction with the team’s performance in the tournament, despite the fact that the team had to rush to memorize their cases.
“I think we did really well for our first tournament.” Johnson said. “We overall as a team started out strong, but over the course of the tournament, we clicked with all of our cases better.”
Bellefeuille was also complimentary of how the team came together.
“I thought it went really well for our first tournament being online,” Bellefeuille said. “It was a little rushed, and it was hard to memorize everything in time, but it definitely ended up working out okay. I was really proud of everyone.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was decided that all Mock Trial tournaments for the 2020-2021 academic year will be held virtually. Although the events take place virtually, the team was able to adapt relatively easily to the online format.
“It was definitely a learning curve to figure out with working online and going through the cases.” Johnson said. “The team did a really good job of handling it really quick and it wasn’t too hard once we figured it out. I personally feel like I performed better when not having to worry about everyone sitting right there and the judge sitting right there, and also the extra layer of the camera.”
Even though the mock trial tournament was held very differently compared to past tournaments, it was still a success for the Luther team.
Wheaton College placed first in the tournament, with a record of 6-1-1. The Loyola University and Dillard University teams both had a record of 6-2; but the Loyola team placed second and the Dillard team third, with a slight difference in opposition strength. The Luther College Mock Trial team, despite the limited time and the constraints of the online format, ranked 5th in the tournament with a record of 5-3. Kyle Brusco (‘22) received an Outstanding Attorney Award.
As a result of the Luther College sanctioned rules and CDC pandemic safety guidelines, activities such as Mock Trial are difficult to organize. Students and organizers alike must adapt to a highly modified format. However, thanks to the strong determination and spirit of participants and coordinators, the Luther College mock trial team was able to continue their participation in these competitions for this academic year. On November 15th, the team will be competing in another tournament. Two Luther teams will be competing in a virtual tournament at Pace University.