Samford University's mock trial team placed third in the Owl Classic at Kennesaw State University on Oct. 21 in Atlanta, Georgia. Howard College of Arts and Sciences junior Gage Sherrill won the Best Advocate Award, and Malija Goggins received the Best Witness Award.
"It was a shock," Sherrill said. "The moment I heard my name, my jaw dropped. It was surreal. All of our hard work had paid off."
"It was an honor to win the Outstanding Witness Award," Goggins said. "There are so many great witnesses on my team and on other teams that were deserving of this award."
As a member of the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), the Samford Mock Trial Team engages in trial competitions with teams from other universities. The team is given facts and evidence to build cases from both sides of the argument. This year's criminal case was Midlands versus De la Porta or Poe Cameron. Students had to prepare for two different defenses because they learned which part of the case would be tried about 20 minutes before the start of the trial competition.
"The most challenging part was not getting intimidated by other teams," Goggins said. "You go against schools with esteemed reputations. As a leader on the team, I know my peers feed off my energy. It was important for me to hide my anxiety so the rest of my team didn't psych themselves out before the trial.
All it takes is that first appearance in front of a judge to be reminded you belong in this space just as much as the next person."
Lynn Hogewood, assistant dean of academic and bar success in Samford’s Cumberland School of Law, is the Mock Trial team adviser. Goggins and Sherrill credited her and the team's coach, Cumberland School of Law third-year student Hannah Maynor, for their success.
“Professor Hogewood is amazing," Goggins said. "She handles the behind-the-scenes work, such as getting us into competitions, providing us with the best experiences, advocating on our behalf, and so much more. Our coach, Hannah Maynor, makes sure we look good and sound good. They are our Batman and Robin."
Assistant Dean Hogewood is grateful for Goggins and Sherrill’s teamwork.
"They work together incredibly well," Hogewood said. "Most of all, they do this with slight guidance from me and the coach. I'm just in awe of how they come together when given the freedom to think in a fun and safe environment. It's a blessing for me to witness."
Students participating in mock trials develop critical thinking and public speaking skills and are introduced to legal practices and procedures. They get the opportunity to discern pertinent facts and application of law. As an inspiring attorney, Goggins says the team has given her "greater confidence" in pursuing a career in law.
"I look back on my first practice when I was too shy to correct people on how to say my name, and now I’m the captain of my team delivering opening statements. It's provided exposure, experience and enlightenment not only into the legal field itself but on who I am as an advocate."
Sherrill added, "All of this has given me perspective on what a career as an attorney would be like, and it has given me a sense of purpose and direction as I continue to work towards law school and a legal career."The AMTA "hosts 32 regional tournaments, eight opening-round championship tournaments and a national championship tournament each season. Approximately 700 teams from over 400 universities and colleges will compete in these tournaments. In total, AMTA provides a forum for over 7,300 undergraduate stud