By Robert W. Dalton
For two hours, prosecutors and defense attorneys peppered witnesses with questions and sparred with each other over procedural issues. Jurors, tasked with deciding the innocence or guilt of a defendant charged with arson and murder, listened intently.
The drama didn’t unfold in a courtroom, however. Instead, this case was contested in a classroom as part of Wofford’s mock trial Interim class.
Dr. Katherine Valde, assistant professor of philosophy, taught the class. She says mock trial is a way for students to gain experience and skills, especially students planning to pursue a career in the legal profession.
“Law is a part of all of our lives, so gaining a better understanding of how the law really works is beneficial for everyone,” she says. “While students often want to use their moral intuition to argue cases, mock trial highlights the separation between legal and moral reasoning, demonstrating to students the important lesson that law is a self-contained system and to argue legally one must use available legal resources.”
Jordan Willey ’23, a government major from Moncks Corner, South Carolina, suggested the class. As the founder and president of Wofford’s mock trial club, he wanted to use it as a training camp for the regional competitions held Feb. 11-13.
Wofford fielded two teams for the regionals. Furman University and Michigan State University were the regional hosts and the competition was held via Zoom.
“Interim gave us the advantage of being able to focus only on mock trial,” says Willey. “It helped us prepare for the competition, and it’s beneficial to those of us in the pre-law program.”
Willey served as a prosecutor for mock trial. His goal, however, is to be a criminal defense attorney.
The Interim practice paid off for Sarah Owens ’23, an international affairs and philosophy double major from Charleston, South Carolina. She was named an outstanding witness in the Michigan State regional, one of only nine students from teams across the country to earn the honor.
“This was my first competition, so I’m genuinely shocked,” says Owens, who is planning for a career in international or constitutional law. “Receiving this award just attests to all the practice we put in. This was one of the best opportunities I’ve had, and I’m very fortunate to have been able to participate.”