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A Mock Trial In Action

A Mock Trial In Action

Learn about A Mock Trial In Action

Learning Outcomes

This module will help you:

  • To broaden your understanding of the various roles of participants in a criminal trial.
  • To be able to identify and explain key legal terms used in a Trial.
  • To be able to describe the running order of a criminal trial.
  • To be able to demonstrate your knowledge of effective Opening statements, Examination-in-chief & Cross Examination of witnesses, and closing statements by evaluating the performance of various participants in Courts Service National Mock Trial Competition.


Legal Terms and Explanations

Defence:  This word is used in a number of related ways. The defence (counsel for the accused); to enter a defence (evidence and legal arguments in a case); the defences open to the accused (for example, self defence and provocation). 

Book of Evidence: Set of documents which must by law be served upon the accused before his/her trial. It includes the indictment, witness statements, and exhibits (physical evidence) to be produced in court. Evidence: Testimony from witnesses as well as physical evidence (exhibits)

Testify: A person “testifies” when they give oral evidence about what they saw, heard or experienced under oath in court.

Hearsay: A breach of a rule that applies to testimony. This is a statement, other than one made by the witness while testifying at the trial, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Witnesses are not permitted to say what others saw, said heard etc. in giving evidence. Hearsay evidence is usually but not always (exceptions) inadmissible at trial.

Finding of fact: This refers to the determination of what evidence and testimony is believable and what is not. In a criminal trial with judge and jury findings of fact are made by the jury. 

Adjournment: The term used when a case has been postponed to a future date.



The Witness

A witness testifies under oath or affirmation.
They have knowledge relating to the case.
They can testify on behalf of the prosecution or defence but will always be cross-examined by the other side in an attempt to discredit their evidence.
An expert witness is a person who can testify because of his/her expertise in a particular field relevant to the case.


The Running Order Of A Trial

  • Opening speech of the prosecution.
  • Examination in chief of witness #1 for prosecution. 
  • Cross-examination of witness  #1 by the defence.
  • Repeated for each prosecution witness.
  • Opening speech by the defence.
  • Examination-in-chief (by the defence) & cross-examination (by the prosecution)of each witness for the defence.
  • Closing speech by the prosecution.
  • Closing speech by the defence.
  • Judge sums up the case and gives instructions to the jury.
  • Jury deliberate in private to reach a verdict.
  • In the courtroom, the foreman of the jury gives verdict in writing to the registrar for the judge to announce. 
  • Sentence or dismissal by the judge.


The Prosecution's Opening Speech

The goal of the prosecution's opening speech is to map out their case for the judge and jury in a good story/narrative. 

The prosecuting barrister will summarise the evidence that will be presented in court to prove their case

Tips for a good opening speech:

Speak clearly, be authentic, and use good eye contact.
Do not read from the script.
Explain what happened in a way that is easy to follow and interesting. Do not argue.
Keep it simple, state the charges & present key ideas in logical order. 
Tell what witnesses and evidence you will use to prove your story.
State that you will meet the burden of proof.
Use future tense: “The evidence will show…”.
Use determined language: “We will prove” rather than “We will try to…”.



Witness testimony and other evidence (e.g. exhibits) to prove (prosecution) of disprove the prosecutions case (defence) will be presented at this stage.
Good Examination-in-chief requires: 
Being able to tell a story through a witness about important facts of the case that support your argument. 
Focusing on 3 or 4 concepts and /or evidence you need from the witness.

Not asking leading questions (Putting the words in the witness's mouth).
Only asking the witness open-ended questions: Who, Where, When, Why, How?
Asking questions in “baby steps” and ensuring that one idea leads logically and sequentially to next.
Not allowing the witness give longwinded answers. This requires keeping the questions short and to the facts contained within the witness statement.
Not asking questions that call for improper opinions or state conclusions.
Making your witness look believable and honest.

Cross Examination

The purpose of cross-examination is to clarify or cast doubt upon the testimony of opposing witnesses. The goal of cross examination is to discredit the witness testimony, by showing bias, lying, doubt, lack of clarity, lack of cooperation etc.

Good Cross-Examination requires:
Asking leading questions that put words into the witness mouth and can only be answered “yes” or “no” (closed questions).
Not asking questions you do not know the answer to and never asking open-ended questions. Open-ended questions give witnesses the opportunity to highlight their positive attributes.
Using the witness statement against the witness and to highlight any inconsistencies.
Control the witness in a strong yet polite way. Do not be aggressive.


The Defence's Opening Speech

The defence in their opening speech often state that the indictment or accusation does not mean that a person is guilty. They will also emphasise the prosecutions burden of proof, that is, “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Speak clearly, be authentic, and use good eye contact.
Do not read from the script.
Do not overstate your case – do not argue.  

The Prosecution's Closing Speech

The goal of the closing speech is to connect the facts that came into evidence during the trial to support your case with passion and clarity.
 It is a review of the evidence presented. 
The prosecution should stress facts favourable to their case and demonstrate that met its burden of proving “beyond a reasonable doubt” all the necessary elements of its case. 
The prosecution concludes with a request that the jury enter judgment on behalf of the prosecution (guilty).

The Defence's Closing Speech

The defence reviews the evidence as presented, stresses the facts favourable to its case.
The defence shows how the prosecution has failed to meet its burden by not proving all the necessary elements of its case “beyond a reasonable doubt”. All doubts in the prosecutions case should be outlined. 
The defence closing speech concludes with a request that the jury enter judgment on behalf of the defendant (not guilty).