Mock Trial Step-by-Step
Mock hearings are a great way to expose students to legal topics in a variety of courses across the curriculum. They provide an opportunity for students to develop advocacy and inquiry skills, explore career modelling, work cooperatively, develop critical thinking, build conflict resolution skills and develop relationships with justice sector professionals.
Opening Proceedings cover the administrative and procedural steps that happen before the trial begins.
An arraignment involves the accused being identified and called to the bar. The charge is then read to the accused, and they are asked for their plea. The accused then either pleads ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.
An opening statement is given by both the Crown and Defence. This gives each side a chance to lay out what they will be arguing, and which evidence they intend to call, including documents or exhibits, as well as witnesses they intend to call.
The process by which a witness in the trial promises to tell the court the truth, either by way of a holy book or an affirmation.
A witness examination involves a series of questions asked by a lawyer to a witness in a trial. The witness must then answer those questions truthfully, and to the best of their ability.
A direct examination, or, examining a witness ‘on direct’, is an examination where the lawyer asking the questions is the one who has called that particular witness to assist their case.
A cross examination, or, examining a witness ‘on cross’, is an examination where the lawyer asking the questions is not the one who has called that particular witness to assist their case. In other words, they are asking questions of the other side’s witness.
After the completion of a witness’ direct and cross examination, the direct examiner is given the opportunity re-examine their witness. This opportunity is given in order to clarify or further explain any issues which came up on on their witness’ cross examination.
Evidence to be introduced to the court can be a physical piece of evidence, or a document. This evidence must be authenticated before it can become part of the court’s record.
A lawyer will raise an objection if they have an issue with a question the opposing lawyer is asking, or the evidence they anticipate the witness is about to give. The opposing lawyer may respond to the objection, and the judge will either sustain the objection and ask the lawyer asking the question to rephrase, or side with the party conducting the examination by overruling the objection.
Police officer testimony is somewhat different than a typical witness – police witnesses are allowed to use their notes during their testimony.
Defence chooses whether or not to call evidence. Because the Crown has the burden of proving their case against the accused, at the end of the Crown’s case, Defence may choose not to call evidence if they believe the Crown has not proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the Accused has a previous criminal record, they may be questioned on it during cross examination. Defence can choose whether to preemptively address this in their direct examination of the accused.
Each side gives a closing statement at the conclusion of the trial, after all evidence has been given. Each lawyer will give a summary of the evidence the judge heard on the key issues, and offer their opinion on the reasons the judge has to find in their favour.
After the conclusion of the mock trial, there is an opportunity for the Judge to give their feedback to participants, including tips on what worked and what didn’t, and advice for the future. The Judge may also give a decision on which way they may have ruled if this were a real case.