July 8, 2020

Mock Trial team faces four-year competition in first outing and walks away with awards

This archived article was written by: Gypsie Delgado

Nine CEU students competed last weekend against 18 teams from all over the Rocky Mountain Region in a mock trial competition at Weber State University. CEU got into the mock trial competition when two CEU students, Brett Coombs and Jenalee Richens approached Steve Burge, department chair of Criminal Justice, to learn how to become part of the mock trial competition. “I participated in a high school mock trial team and wanted to do the same here,” Coombs said.
Students representing CEU included Jenalee Richens, Daniel Wood, Brett Coombs, DeLon Lee, Tyler Wright, Alma Sweeny, Hernando Perez, Becky Park and Shawn Sackett. The Criminal Justice Department and The Law and Order Society funded the students.
CEU was the only two-year college that participated in the competition. They walked away with several awards. Alma Sweeny received an outstanding witness award out of 108 witnesses. Sweeny was the only witness from the trial to receive the award from both defense and prosecution, earning more points than anyone in the competition.
“The best part of the competition was being able to know your role so well that when the attorney would try and trick you, you could spin it on them and let them know that you were in charge,” Sweeny said.
They tied with University of Utah for the trophy for “Best New Team”. CEU also took an honorable mention award. All 18 teams that competed voted on the team with the best sportsmanship, most friendly, most reasonable, etc.
Coombs received honorable mention in the category of best attorney out of 54 attorneys during one round against Weber State and was voted by one judge as the best attorney of the six in that round. Weber State took both first and second place in the team awards.
“It was an amazing experience. It was just like a real courtroom. It gave you a rush standing in front of a judge and the opposing counsel to argue your case,” Richens said. Wood received several number one rankings in various rounds. Most of the mock trial teams started practicing in September and some have even been practicing for years. CEU’s team has only been practicing since early January. One CEU attorney quit three weeks ago and that is when Wood stepped in.
“I would like to build a tradition in mock trial, but will only do so if I can get administrative support and can make it a regular class. “The students who participated are so great.
I admire them immensely for taking such a challenge on. They have incredible courage and personal drive. They worked hard and put together their own presentations with only a little bit of my feedback,” Burge said.
Criminal justice is one of the largest programs on campus. According to Burge there are eight different adjuncts, each of them having substantial real-world experience in the criminal justice/legal studies field.
“We will be hiring another full-time faculty member next fall to help support me. I think the program will continue to grow during the next few years,” Burge stated.
CEU’s Criminal Justice program attempted to form a four-year bachelor’s program with Weber State but failed. Weber is already working with Salt Lake Community College and its administrators thought it would be too far of a stretch to bring the program to CEU. CEU made arrangements with SUU for a bachelor’s program in the future.
Currently SUU broadcasts two classes from Cedar City and that is intended to continue into next year. Students will be able to complete a four-year degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology from Utah State.
“In the future I believe we will be one of the best teams to ever compete. Just this year, our very first year we pulled together and formed our team in a month, losing only to the best team by nine points. Just imagine if we would have had more time to practice. Next year we will kick trash,” Richens said.
“I think that the mock trial program is something that would boost enrollment in CEU’s Criminal Justice program,” Coombs said.

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