Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mock-Trial Team Gets Pointers from Expert - a Circuit Judge

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mock-Trial Team Gets Pointers from Expert - a Circuit Judge

Article excerpt

Justice may be blind, but St. Louis Circuit Judge Jimmie Edwards had his eyes and ears wide open as the mock-trial team at Berkeley High School practiced its case. When the team's defendant, LaMonte Lewis, kept coughing in the middle of his testimony, Edwards called his bluff.

"What you're doing is every time you don't know something, you cough," Edwards told Lewis. "It's a pattern. The moment you get in trouble, you cough. Come on, be a good poker player."

For the past 12 years, Berkeley's mock-trial team has turned to Edwards for advice on how to act and look the part of a professional legal team. Edwards was a practicing lawyer when he volunteered to help the team, and now he is a judge and an instructor at St. Louis University.

"I teach a class for undergrads and a class in the law school," said Edwards. "But I'd rather spend my time with these kids here. It's rewarding seeing them mature."

Because the mock-trial team doesn't have a speech or debate team from which to cull the best speakers, the team succeeds through its own initiative and the grooming of Edwards and co-coach Jane Neukomm, a teacher at Berkeley. The two guide the team through the season and recruit new members.

"I've known Amy (Taylor) for years," said Edwards. "The first time she was watching a practice, I asked her if she'd share her M&Ms with me, and she said no. Now she brings me a bag all the time."

What the team members have in common is drive. They spend weekends, holidays and evenings in preparing their cases. Some put in 13-hour days at school to make the team's night practices. The work isn't seen as a sacrifice but as an intellectual reward and challenge.

"There aren't a lot of academic programs at school," said Annika Kyles, a senior. "I needed to be in something academic, something challenging."

The mock-trial process is, indeed, a challenge. The teams are handed a case and a debriefing file filled with the accompanying paperwork: legal explanations of charges and procedures, the applicable state and federal statutes, witness testimonies, evidence documents, summaries of investigations. …

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