Mock Trials Help Law Students and Officers Gain New Skills

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Practice makes perfect, as they say.

Through a new collaboration between the University of Alabma School of Law and the City of Northport, University of Alabama law students and several Northport Police Officers participated in a series of mock trials last week.

“The main goal is for us to get simulated exercise on what a suppression hearing looks like,” UA law student Reave Shewmake said. “And also the officers getting practice on being cross examined by different attorneys.”

Northport Municipal Judge Paul Patterson presided over the trials.

“This is our first program,” Patterson said. “It was just a collaborative effort from all of us here trying to give back to the community to help law enforcement and the law school. Back in the day when I was on the trial team at Alabama, Bob Prince, who was my coach, said it put a lawyer three to five years ahead of other lawyers starting in the profession.”

Patterson said that’s a figure he believes, because trial skills don’t come easy for many students. But the more you do it the better you get.

Third-year law students took on the roles of prosecutors and defense attorneys, and alternated questioning Northport Police Officers called to testify.

“It is going to be a pretty valuable lesson for us,” Northport Officer Dylan Towl said. “We are here to help build our skills and the UA students as well. It is going to be a good thing for everybody”

Officer William Stewart agreed.

“This is great experience in the courtroom to learn for law enforcement and law students on what a trial is about,” Stewart said.

Patterson said he was impressed with the future attorneys and knows the collaboration is getting them invaluable experience.

“We think it is a win/win,” Patterson said. “It is a first pilot project, but so far so good.”

The goal is to conduct at least three of these mock trial series each year.

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