Northern Kentucky University sophomore and political science major David Bonilla seems affable, but when coupled with senior Anthony Putman in a court room, an unforgiving Mock Trial dream team is formed.
Bonilla founded NKU’s Mock Trial Team last January with help from professor and practicing lawyer Bruce McClure. Putman, who currently serves as vice president of the team, joined shortly after. Ten months later, NKU’s group continues to dominate other local teams, establishing themselves as fierce competitors.
The duo, along with the other members of the team, defeated the University of Kentucky and Wilmington College at a recent scrimmage. Putman, who is currently studying pre-law and criminal justice, received the Top Attorney Award. Team member Taylor Gross received this distinction as well. Nate Netzley and Ryan Downey received Outstanding Witness Awards.
A mock trial mimics real-life courtroom proceedings and offers students a new perspective on how trials proceed. A typical mock trial team consists of six to ten members, with two members acting as lawyers and two as witnesses. The attorneys deliver an opening statement, conduct cross-examinations of witnesses and issue closing arguments.
The witnesses, played by students, are involved in the case and cross-examined by lawyers. The process involves a lot of acting and a great deal of confidence. “All eyes are on you,” Bonilla said. “It can be pretty exhilarating.”
NKU is not the only school with a mock trial team — Salmon P. Chase School of Law has a team of its own.
Chase graduate Josh Brown is the attorney coach for the team. Brown, who was once a member of Chase’s Mock Trial Team, brings valuable experience to the new organization.
“Chase law school’s Mock Trial Team is really respected, which is why I drew our coach from them,” McClure said.
McClure describes mock trial as a “flight simulator for lawyers” and encourages any student who wishes to pursue law school to join the team. There is a place for every kind of student to participate in mock trial.
“Team members need to have a combination of technical ability and style, which is why acting students are doing so well,” McClure said.
The members of the team have high hopes for the future and would like the program to grow. Currently, NKU has one team, but they hope to add another within the coming months. Each school is able to sponsor four mock trial teams, which allows for up to 40 students to participate.
“My vision for Mock Trial is to make it more professional, get more people to know about it,” Putman said. “We would welcome anyone who wants to be a part of this organization.”
“It’s really a lot of fun, and everyone on the team would say the same thing,” Bonilla said.
NKU junior Devon Skeens, a member of the team, encourages students to get involved.
“This is the real deal: We beat UK,” Skeens said. “We hold ourselves to high standards, and anyone who wants to get involved should hold themselves to those standards, as well.”
Currently there is no fee to be a member of The team, mostly due to funding provided by the political science department and alumni donations. Since the team is in the process of forming a second team, current members welcome any students who are interested in joining.
Upcoming events for the Mock Trial Team include the regional competition in February, and a High School Prep Mock Trial Competition on Feb.11. The proceeds for the high school competition will go towards funding the team, with a portion being donated to charity.
The Mock Trial Team holds meetings every Tuesday in Founders Hall Room 318 at 5 p.m. The meetings are open to all NKU students.