Mock trial takes on legal issues

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The students enrolled in the Rhetorical Criticism class taught by Professor Lin Allen put on a RhetaMock trial called “Only Elephants Should Wear Tusks” at Wiebking Hall this week.

A RhetaMock is a joining of drama and law.  The result is a performance mock trial used to explore the elements of rhetorical critical methods in the practice of law.

Lin Allen, a professor of communication studies, spoke about the RhetaMock she put together with her students.

“We take elements of theater and the legal profession, marry the two and then try and extrapolate elements that are integral to both,” Allen said.

The first MetaMock was put on by UNC students in 2011.

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“We have done a number of them…we discuss everything from the Edward Snowden case to a child custody case in Chile,” Allen said.

The RhetaMock this year was the case of Tusks, Inc. v TabLloyds of London written by Lin Allen.  The ‘plaintiff’ pursued libel against the ‘defendant’ who was an investigative journalist, accusing the journalist of printing untruth that harmed her reputation.

The graduate students of Comm 605: Rhetorical Criticism played all parts of the case.

The Master of Ceremonies, Alex Stern introduced all of the students.  The judge, Kristen Adams, listened to opening statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, defendant, plaintiff and closing statements.

The plaintiff attorneys played by Brad McCauley and Sara Pollet argued that the article in question harmed the plaintiff’s reputation while the defense team, Mechelle Seaton and Breelyn Bowe argued that journalists are meant to be fair rather than favorable.

All of the student actors read from scripts in matching white folders during the RhetaMock.

There was no jury or deliberation but instead the mock trial played out like a theater performance.

Laniesha Rodgers, a senior political science major, was in the audience.

“It was very entertaining and well put together,” Rodgers said.

The RhetaMock ended with a raffle of elephant themed prizes, playing off of the case’s theme.  Winners were drawn by the judge and got to choose from stuffed animals, decals and little red boxes of Barnum’s Animals Crackers.

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