Special Topics in Social Studies: the United States Court Systems and Practices Mock Trial

Special Topics in Social Studies: the United States Court Systems and Practices Mock Trial

Dallas Bar Association Mock Trial Squad - Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School at Mountain View College

Special Topics in Social Studies: The United States Court Systems and Practices – Mock Trial

Fall 2015

Dr. W. Kuykendall


Lawyers represent clients in trials. Individuals represent facts and ideas as witnesses. Physical evidence can point to guilt, fault, blame, or vindication and innocence. A trial before a court encourages each side to use evidence, reasoning, and persuasion to best represent their ideas. Once you know the basic rules of procedure it is up to you to take the evidence that is before you to prepare a case where you can prevail based on a strategy for presenting the case that makes best use of the witnesses and evidence available. In this course students will learn about civil and criminal law in preparation to try a civil and a criminal case from intake to final trial. Acting as the attorneys, defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses, and courtroom personnel, students will prepare and conduct trials. This class will teach knowledge of the legal system of the United States of America, case analysis, communication skills, critical thinking skills, and reasoning skills.


Each student should demonstrate a high level of performance and development in the following areas:

1. Research: Students will use a variety of informational resources to analyze, evaluate, and utilize physical evidence and testimonial evidence.

2. Public speaking: Students will demonstrate proficiency in basic public speaking skills such as clear and interesting delivery, professional posture, and eye contact.

3. Argumentation: Students will build and defend a position with the use of critical thinking, logic, evidence, and compelling language.

4. Note taking: Students will demonstrate advanced note taking techniques by tracking the activities during a trial to include (a) presenting the case evidence, (b) monitoring the evidence presented by the other side, (c) developing a theory of the case for the trier of fact, (d) adjusting to the evidence and theories produced by their opponents, (e) constructing cross examination questions during direct testimony; and (f) drafting closing arguments that mirror the evidence presented during trial in the best light for their side.

5. Organization: Students will demonstrate organizational skills by creating a system to categorize their research and by maintaining clear organization during trial.

6. Active listening: Students will demonstrate their listening abilities by both responding specifically to arguments made by their classmates and by constructively critiquing the performance of their classmates.

Academic Integrity

I will use my own thoughts and my own words. I will do my own work to support my own learning.

This means:







Class Participation, Daily Classroom Activities (individual and group – mock trial practice rounds – drafting and speaking) is 20% of the six weeks average.

Homework is 20% of the six weeks average.Homework will be directly related to the mock trial packet, trial skills, and public speaking.

Tests are 25% of the six weeks average.

Projects (Presentations, Reports, Research, and Trial Practice) are 20% of the six weeks average.

The six weeks Exam is 15% of the six weeks average.

Make-up Work

Make-up work will be allowed for excused absences without penalty subject to the student completing the missed work within two school days for every day missed. Example: Student is absent 2 days; student has 4 school days (not class meeting days) to complete the make-up work.

Make-up work will be allowed for absences that are unexcused with a 20% penalty for every day that the work is late two school days after the students return to school. This affords the student the opportunity to find out what work he/she missed on the first day back, and to turn it in on the next day of school without penalty. Example: Student returns to school on Monday after a Friday unexcused absence. The student will use Monday, without penalty, to find out what he/she missed, and may turn the work in Tuesday without penalty. Each day after Tuesday the grade is reduced by 20%. It is your responsibility to contact me and make an appointment for all make-up tests/quizzes. The rules outlined in the Dallas ISD policy regarding make-up work and late papers will be enforced to the letter. It is your responsibility to check for homework after an absence. It is your responsibility to note your syllabus with homework assignments. After these provisions are followed by the teacher your parent/guardian will be contacted by phone and a parent-teacher conference will be requested. If this action does not result in the completion of the assignment within 5 school days the grade earned will be recorded in the gradebook.


Each student will receive a copy of the mock trial packet.

Various textbooks and articles will be used by the mock trial coach for instruction during the year. Students will be given copies of the documents or pdf files of the documents to read and respond.

Use only blue or black pens when turning in assignments. Make sure your name, the title of the class, the details of the assignment, the date, and your class period is written on the top of the first page.

Use spiral notebooks for note taking and for recording assignments and due dates.

Use free leaf paper for turning in daily assignments.

Bring your debate packet and notes to every class meeting and practice.


Rules outlined and enumerated in the Dallas ISD and Garza ECHS Student Code of Conduct Handbook will be enforced.


You are expected to be seated in your desk, on time, and prepared for class to begin. Excellence is not an event, it is a habit;aroutine practiced over time. I expect excellence from all students in the class.I expect students to behave with a high degree of emotionally maturityresolving conflicts or addressingissues in a civilized and professional manner.You or your parents/guardians may schedule aconference with mebetween2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday or Thursday, or other times as we may mutually agree. I can be contacted by email at or phone at (940) 783-7713.


I am available for tutoring after school on Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. You must schedule this tutoring in advance.


After school practice will be on Thursday from 4:15 to 6:15 p.m.


We have the privilege of having a practicing attorney and a graduate debate student from Southern Methodist University as our mentors. Meetings with and special training with our mentors will be one Wednesdayeach month from 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. The dates are subject to change:

A schedule will be provided and will be posted for student’s access early in the semester.

Attending the mentor meetings will also get you extra credit; as well as a free dinner. Attendance is worth 50 bonus points to be used on any assignment or test.


Attending a Mock Trial Workshopwill also get you extra credit.

A schedule will be provided and will be posted for student’s access early in the semester.


Weeks 1 and 2:

*Review the structure of the U. S. Legal system

*Differentiate between civil and criminal trials

*Identify participants in a trial and the roles they play

*Identify rules of procedure for the courtroom

Weeks 3 and 4

*Develop and practice courtroom procedures

*Develop and practice simplified rules of evidence

*Distinguish between questions used in examination and cross-examination

*Distinguish how rules apply to examination and cross-examination

Weeks 5 and 6

*Read the Statement of Facts and affidavits for the criminal and civil cases we will present

*Courtroom roles will be assigned at this time (witnesses, attorneys, etc.)

*Prepare the case for trial by analyzing both sides of the case and dissecting the evidence

*Identify the significance of the available evidence for each side

*Prioritize the evidence

*Evaluate the witness statements

Weeks 7 and 8

*Students will group together (prosecution/defense) to prepare direct examination questions and draft exhibits for use in trial

*Students will develop a theory of the case

*Students will identify the evidence and evaluate the evidence

*Students will identify the techniques to use to introduce evidence

*Students will identify the techniques to use to defeat evidence admission

*Students will identify the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the case

*Students will construct their version (theory) of the case

Weeks 9 and 10

*Students will prepare cross-examination questions for the opposition

*Students will continue preparation of exhibits

*Students will begin drafts of opening and closing statements

*Students will practice testimony of witnesses

*Students will practice submitting evidence for admission

*Students will practice objecting to evidence presented at trial

Weeks 11 and 12

*Students will finalize opening and closing statements

*Students will refine the testimony of witnesses

*Students will refine direct and cross examination questions/strategies

*Students will refine steps to introduce evidence at trial

*Students will refine steps to object to evidence being admitted at trial

Weeks 13 and 14

*Students will practice direct examination questions

*Students will review possible cross-examination questions their witnesses may be asked.

*Students will review cross-examination questions for the opposition and anticipate what their answers might be.

*Students will introduce evidence.

*Students will object to evidence being admitted

Weeks 15 and 16

*Students will practice trial procedures and rehearse for trials


TEKS §130.296. (c) Knowledge and skills:

(1)The student examines the structure of the legal system in the United States. The student is expected to:(A) trace the history, structure, and function of state and federal court systems and criminal procedure;(B) outline the state court system and the federal court system;(C) explain how jurisdiction impacts criminal charges and trial proceedings;(D) explain the purposes of law;(E) distinguish between constitutional law, case law, statutory law, and administrative law;(F) identify the differences in processing a misdemeanor and felony case;(G) describe the impact of the grand jury process on court proceedings;(H) examine relationship of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights upon the court system; and(I) explore the impact of public opinion and the legislature on the court system in the United States.

(2)The student explores the roles and responsibilities of members of courtroom work groups. The student is expected to:(A) explain the roles of professionals such as the police, prosecutor, judge, and criminal defense attorney in the criminal process;(B) examine the roles and importance of members of the courtroom such as the jury, bailiff, and court reporter;(C) analyze the impact of the victim and the defendant upon the courtroom process; and(D) discuss the dynamics of assembly line justice and discretion found in court proceedings.

(3)The student recognizes communication skills needed for courtroom policies and procedures. The student is expected to:(A) use communication skills to evaluate body language, gestures, verbal tone, and inflection;(B) use interpersonal communication skills; and(C) use writing skills to facilitate effective field note taking and report writing.

(4)The student examines the steps by which a criminal charge is processed through pretrial, trial, adjudication, and the appellate stages. The student is expected to:(A) examine the interaction between police and prosecutor in filing complaints and making a decision to charge;(B) explain pretrial court proceedings such as rules of discovery, challenges to evidence, and the bail process;(C) distinguish between direct and circumstantial evidence and burden of proof; (D) explore the impact of pleas and plea bargaining on the trial proceedings;(E) identify the trial process from pretrial to sentencing;(F) evaluate a simulated criminal case; and(G) conduct a mock trial demonstrating understanding of the criminal trial procedure.

(5)The student explains the structure and provisions of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights and how they impact the criminal trial process. The student is expected to: (A) apply the police responsibilities under the Fourth Amendment regarding search and seizure in a simulated arrest scenario; (B) determine if a search initiated in a scenario is proper under the provisions of the Fourth Amendment; (C) analyze the exclusionary rule and the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine to determine if evidence obtained in an illegal search scenario is admissible in court; (D) explain the impact of the Eighth Amendment on the criminal justice system; (E) analyze the effect of landmark cases such as Miranda v. Arizona, Weeks v. United States, Mapp v. Ohio, Douglas v. California, and Escobedo v. Illinois on individuals entering the criminal justice system; (F) describe the due process rights of a criminal suspect in the trial and sentencing process; and (G) explain the impact of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments on the criminal trial process.