The Mississippi Valley State University Mock Trial Team competed in the John Marshall National Undergraduate Diversity Mock Trial Competition held April 13 – 14, 2012, on the campus of John Marshall Law School in Chicago. The university has competed in the John Marshall Competition since last year.
Two MVSU students – Thaddeus Brooks, a senior history major, and L.E. Carter III, a senior political science major, competed in the tournament, both earning Outstanding Trial Advocate Awards and scholarships of $2,000 for their performances over the course of three trials on Friday. Mr. Brooks is from Marks, Mississippi, where he attended Madison Shannon Palmer High School. Mr. Carter is from McComb Mississippi, and attended McComb High School.
“I am very pleased with the performance of our mock trial team throughout this season. The students put in many hours of preparation, and it paid off,” said Larry W. Chappell, University Pre-Law Advisor and Mock Trial Coach. “I am especially excited about the performance of our team at the John Marshall National Undergraduate Diversity Mock Trial Competition. To have L.E. Carter III and Thaddeus Brooks win outstanding trial advocate awards speaks volumes about their preparation.”
In the John Marshall Diversity format, students are assigned to teams with students from other colleges and universities. They then compete against other teams formed at the tournament. Each student must play five roles during the course of three trial rounds: 1) opening attorney; 2) closing attorney; 3) directing attorney; 4) crossing attorney and 5) witness. If a team is successful, it can compete in quarterfinal, semifinal and final rounds for the national championship.
Mr. Brooks was a member of a team that qualified for quarterfinals on Saturday. His team won the first two rounds and advanced to the national championship round. In a very close match, his team finished second in the national championship round. For that stellar performance, he and his two teammates from LeMoyne Owens College and Lewis University earned law school scholarships of $9,000, bringing Mr. Brooks’ winnings to scholarship waivers of $11,000 for law school at this tournament. “Mr. Brooks is especially to be commended for his participation in the finals of the national championship round, and his work with teammates from other schools,” said Dr. Chappell. “Since he had won an outstanding witness award in an earlier tournament, he will need his own trophy case!”
MVSU President Donna H. Oliver said, “The entire Mississippi Valley State University community is very proud of our team, the only one of its kind at a Historically Black University in Mississippi, and one of the very few in the nation. Thanks to our outstanding students, and the excellent coaching of Dr. Larry Chappell, they are fierce competitors who exemplify the Valley spirit of excellence in all that they do.”
The MVSU Mock Trial Team has been participating in sanctioned competition since 1998, winning the award for “Best New Team,” at the Birmingham Regional of the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) at Samford University in its first year of regional competition. Since securing consistent funding in 2005, the Mock Trial Team has garnered numerous individual and team awards, competing in both the AMTA invitational regional and national competitions. In 2011 and 2012, the team has competed in the John Marshall Regional and National Undergraduate Diversity Mock Trial Competitions, which are sanctioned by AMTA, securing awards there as well.
“The most impressive team award with AMTA occurred in 2010, when the team qualified for the opening round of the national championship tournament,” explained Dr. Chappell. “The following year, the team garnered honorable mention for its performance in the AMTA regional tournament in Jackson, Mississippi. Team awards also include Spirit of AMTA Award for invitational tournaments at Eastern Kentucky Mock Trial Invitational Tournament in Richmond Kentucky in 2006 and the Polar Bear Tournaments at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio in 2009 and 2010. The Spirit of AMTA Award is granted to the school that best exhibits the values of civility, fair play and justice. This is the only award given at the tournament based on evaluations from other schools,” said Dr. Chappell, who has been a Professor of Political Science since 1988, and Coordinator of the Political Science Program at MVSU since 2006.
Since 2005, the team has also won numerous individual awards with AMTA in invitational, regional and national competition. Outstanding attorney awards went to Milton Bradberry (regional competition) and Ivory Johnson (eight awards for invitational, regional and national competition). Outstanding witness awards have gone to Donnie Harris (invitational competition), Portia Weeks (three awards for invitational and regional competition), O’Dell White (national competition) and Thaddeus Brooks (invitational competition in this past season).
The team has competed in National John Marshall Diversity competitions for the past two years. In the first year, Michelle Scott, who graduated in Social Work last year, received an Outstanding Trial Advocate award.