TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jan 11, 2013

The following questions have been posed to the Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Mock Trial Committee regarding the 2013 mock trial case and rules. Answers are provided below as a service to all mock trial participants. Additional questions should be submitted to Mock Trial Chair Troy Weston at tweston@eblaw.us


Q: If a team elects not to call a witness as required by the rules, is that uncalled witness determined to be “unavailable”?

A: The witness that you opt not to use will not meet the criteria for being an unavailable declarant.



Q: Can we assume that Cameron Paul was present at his own preliminary hearing during Austyn Jakobz’s testimony?

A: You may presume that the defendant was present at his preliminary hearing.



Q: Assuming we do NOT call Cameron Paul as a witness, may an alternate sit at counsel table as Cameron Paul?

A: Yes.



1. Applicable Law vs. Indictment
Q: In this year's problem, the applicable law and jury instructions refer to a charge of first-degree murder. However, the indictment includes sets out the charge as "criminal homicide" and refers to lesser-included offenses. We could find nothing in the problem that limits teams to only arguing first-degree murder. Was this intentional or do you contemplate the teams could argue lesser-included offenses?

A: Team should presume that the indictment and instructions contain no error, and can be read harmoniously. Team should prepare only for a charge of Murder One.



Q: Our team is having trouble pronouncing some of the names of the characters.

A: With regard to pronunciations, this is part of the complexity of the case. The only pronunciation that is not apparent is Quesy. Pronounce it as "Casey."



Q: Does the defense have to prove Cameron Paul's innocence the way the case summary says in the last paragraph. or is the case open to interpretation? I'm not sure if that's always been included in the case summary and we've ignored it, or it just wasn't so specific in previous years. Also, in the crash report it lists Thor Brush's age and DOB as 31, is that meant to be taken as a mistake on Alex Brown's part?

A. Teams are permitted to craft their theory of the case based on the materials provided and fair extrapolations therefrom.  Thus, it is up to each team to determine the appropriate weight to give particular aspects of the materials.  However, consistent with all criminal prosecutions, the prosecution bears the burden of proof, insomuch as it must prove that the defendant is guilty of all elements of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt.


Q. Exhibit A says Thor is 31, but in the autopsy report, he's 52 (plus his child, Gerry, is 32 according to Gerry's witness statement). Are we supposed to take that as a mistake on Alex Brown's part or the exhibit?

A.  The problem should be construed as intentionally drafted, with inconsistencies to be resolved by the teams.



Question 1
Q: I was wondering if you could explain an element of Exhibit A. When Officer Brown recorded "1-Total Killed" and 2-Total injured" does that mean two total injuries that resulted in one death or two injuries and a separate death?

A: The problem should be construed as intentionally drafted, with inconsistencies to be resolved by the teams.

Question 2
Q. We that Exhibit A contains that the following inconsistencies. Were these intentional or mistakes?
1. It says Thor is 31, but in the autopsy report, he's 52 (plus his child, Gerry, is 32 according to Gerry's witness statement).
2. It says that the vehicle was a 2012, whereas elsewhere it is a 2011 model.
3. It says that the license plate expired in 2000.
4. It says that there were 2 vehicles involved, whereas neither the narrative attached to the report nor the witness statement of Alex Brown never mentions a 2nd vehicle.
5. Were there 2 or 3 people in Thor's car?  
6. Are Xing Xing and the "other passenger" in Brown's statement both the same?  And why does his statement say that the "other passenger" died on the scene, but the report says that only 1 person died (Thor) and Xing Xing had non-incapacitating injuries.  
7. There is not an entry for the possible 3rd passenger on the report.

A. With regard to all inconsistencies observed in the case materials, they should be read as complexities in the case.



Question 1
Q: In Exhibit J, should students infer that USCIS refers to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?

A: Inferences that may be appropriately drawn are governed by the rules on fair versus unfair extrapolations. This is left to the teams' discretion.

Question 2
Q. In Exhibit J, Yuri says that she investigated a single-car accident.  However, Yuri states that it was on March 25, but everywhere else has the accident occurring on March 12. In addition, in Yuri's witness statement, on page 23, it says that Yuri spoke with "Alex Cross, the investigating officer," but the witness who provided the investigation report (Exhibit A) is Alex Brown.

A. With regard to all inconsistencies observed in the case materials, they should be read as complexities in the case.



Q: Can we have a home school student on our team?  One of our students has a homeschooled friend who is interested in joining our team.

A: That is fine, assuming that it is done consistently with Rule 8.



Q: At the state tournament, why are scores not made available between rounds?

A: The Mock Trial Committee is often asked why it does not release scores during the state competition.  There are three reasons for the committee's position on this issue:  time, resources, and the integrity of the competition.

Time.  One of the most common concerns regarding the state tournament is the "down" time between rounds.  Please trust us when we say there is no down time for the committee members working the power-matching room.  We work as fast as we can, as accurately as we can.  This means double-checking scores and ballots for superlatives.  It also occasionally means calling scorers or presiding judges for clarification on their determinations.  Then, the teams must be power-matched and assigned new scorers and presiding judges, all of which requires running conflict checks.  

If we were to release scores in between rounds, this would necessarily add time to the entire procedure.  We would have to make copies of the scores in formats that could be posted and/or distributed.  And, naturally, teams would expect the opportunity to review scores in order to lodge any protests before the next round started.  

In light of the travel obligations of the teams and their supporters, as well as the many volunteer attorneys and judges upon whom we rely, the committee will not prolong the tournament unnecessarily.

Resources.  Believe it or not, some of the "senior" members of the committee remember when power matching was done by hand, not by computer program!  The committee has benefitted from the thousands upon thousands of hours of volunteer time.  This means that, over the years, we have added computers and software that enable the program's continued success.  However, our resources are not limitless.  During the course of the tournament, the committee is limited to the use of the equipment that it can bring with it.  The committee does not have access to photocopiers during the tournament.  Without the capability to photocopy scores, distribution mid-round would be close to impossible.  Moreover, adding such a task would require more volunteers to oversee the process--again, a resource that is not limitless.

Integrity of the Competition.  The state tournament uses power matching as a mechanism to ensure the integrity of the competitive spirit.  Power matching helps the most skilled teams rise to the top and helps prevent a weaker team from advancing due to luck of the draw.  However, the heart of our competition is to promote the value of our advocacy-based legal system and instill a respect for and greater understanding of the rule of law.  We want every team giving its all for every round, and, if teams knew that they had been statistically eliminated from a competition, there is the potential for less than full-spirited effort.  As lawyers, we owe our clients zealous advocacy regardless of the stage of the proceedings or the likelihood of success.  The committee feels it is our duty to ensure that the State Mock Trial Competition upholds this standard to the best of its ability.

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