April 12, 2007

Law students to conduct mock trials

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE — Third-year SIU School of Law students will hone their skills before a jury, judge and witnesses next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Eleven students in Assistant Professor Christopher W. Behan’s advanced trial advocacy class are preparing cases for trial. The first of three mock trials — one that involves sexual harassment — is set for 6 p.m., Monday, April 16, in the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building courtroom.

A second case, involving medical malpractice, starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 17. The final case, a personal injury/products liability issue, starts at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 18.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the mock trials. Cameras are allowed in the courtroom, but organizers ask that members of the media be in place before the event begins and to limit their movement during the proceedings. Interviews with students and faculty will be available after each trial, which will last between three and four hours. For more information before the trials, contact assistant professor Christopher W. Behan, or Alicia Ruiz, law school director of communication and outreach, at 618/536-7711.


In each instance, juries will deliberate and render verdicts based upon the evidence presented, Behan said.

The cases are based on professional case files from the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.

Judge Donald G. Wilkerson, a magistrate in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, will preside at Monday’s trial. Federal Judge J. Phil Gilbert will preside on Tuesday, and First Circuit Judge W. Charles Grace presides on Wednesday.

The pass-fail class is a culmination of the students’ law school trial advocacy experience, Behan said. Most of the students plan on becoming trial attorneys, he said.

Students investigated the cases themselves, wrote pleadings, argued pretrial evidentiary motions, contacted witnesses and conducted pre-trial interviews. Law school students, community members and law school staff members will comprise the juries and serve as witnesses. Second-year law student Amanda L. Joyce assisted Behan in finding approximately 30 witnesses.

Behan, Dean Peter C. Alexander, and assistant professor Michelle R. Slack presided over pretrial motion hearings and delivered rulings.

“It has provided the most realistic trial experience we can provide for them,” Behan said. “They’ve had to deal with everything, including witnesses who have forgotten things.”

The scenario leading to the trial is what students will soon face as attorneys, including wondering “whether they’ve done everything right,” Behan said.

“They’ve worked very hard throughout the semester and developed as advocates and lawyers,” he said.