Hayashi and Tang earned outstanding attorney awards for the defense and prosecution, respectively, and Thomas earned an outstanding witness award. Hayashi and Veronica Yabloko '22 founded the program as first-year students and serve as co-presidents.
Mock trial tournaments consist of four three-hour trials that mimic the real thing within an abbreviated timeframe. As part of the preparation, each college program receives a written case packet, “then we spend months writing out scripts for directs, crosses, and statements,” says Hayashi, a biochemistry special major from Chapel Hill, N.C..
Teams present a prosecution and a defense; judges then assign cumulative scores based on team members’ direct examinations, cross-examinations, and statements.
This February’s tournament was held entirely online, challenging participants to bring authenticity to the virtual environment. Hayashi, who has been participating in mock trial for 10 years, prefers in-person trials.
“You can look people in the eye rather than hole up in a classroom for three hours,” she says.
Thomas agreed that she would rather be in person for tournaments and practices. While Swarthmore participated in several in-person tournaments this past fall, “I didn’t meet half the team in person until this year,” says Thomas, of San Antonio, Tex.
For regionals, Swarthmore tailored its preparation to Zoom, planning everything from camera angles to how far the students could walk while remaining on screen. At one point, the Swarthmore team faced an unexpected call: they had to create a new witness in an hour. The students pulled it together by frantically reading reports and writing a script.
Despite the stress, Hayashi says, "it was probably the funniest thing we’ve done all year.” In addition, Hayashi enjoyed her closing statement, when she got to speak for nine minutes to tie the case together.
“You get to see the case at 30,000 feet,” says Hayashi. “It’s so dramatic and fun.”
Tang’s favorite part of regionals was “adapting on the fly,” as the Califon, N.J., native successfully cross-examined an uncooperative expert witness from another team. He gained points for referencing a section of the witness’s demonstrative exhibit that they had purposefully excluded to help their case.
Swarthmore’s Mock Trial program is close-knit, and the graduation of multiple seniors this May will sting. Tang says that he will miss the current seniors but knows they have created “a strong foundation for the future.”
Hayashi, who will spend the rest of the year helping the program prepare for future seasons, described her last year of mock trial as “bittersweet."
“I’m so proud of the underclassmen,” she says. “They all put their heart and soul into this activity.”