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NIU mock trial team makes strong argument

February 4, 2014
Joel Heilmann

Joel Heilmann

The NIU mock trial team finished fifth out of 14 teams during a recent University of St. Francis Invitational.

NIU finished ahead of such teams as Notre Dame, DePaul and the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Junior Joel Heilmann, NIU’s team captain, was awarded an “outstanding attorney award,” while Mike McCarthy won an “outstanding witness award.”

“Student teams are assigned one case to work on per year, and the teams are not scored by the verdict but by their performance and the work they do,” said political science professor Mitch Pickerill, NIU’s mock trial team coach.

Pickerill started the team two years ago after several students approached him about setting up a program. Currently, seven students are on the team.

During the University of St. Francis Invitational, the students had to try both the defense and the prosecution sides of their fictional criminal case.

“The case was pretty complicated, so we had to work hard to immerse ourselves in the rules and details of the case in order to do a good job,” Heilmann said. “Since my role was an attorney, I had to direct witnesses and cross examine others along with delivering the closing argument.”

Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy

This is Heilmann’s first year on the team. He said the competition is fun – and valuable.

“Students learn a lot of legal techniques, like how to talk to a judge and persuade a jury,” Pickerill said. “They also learn other valuable skills, like confident public speaking, problem solving, self-discipline and teamwork.”

The American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) serves as the governing body for all intercollegiate mock trial competitions. NIU is one of the 350 colleges and universities that will have the chance to participate in one of AMTA’s regional tournaments.

NIU team members will compete at the regional level in Joliet, where will try cases in the Will County Courthouse against other universities from across the Midwest.

Students interested in joining the mock trial team should contact Pickerill at [email protected].