California Mock Trial Defense Checklist

Strong attorneys posses the ability to think on their toes and react to new information quickly. But often when it comes to courtroom procedure, the best way to form the desired narrative or question witnesses is to follow a plan that has been proven to work before. Below is the checklist for a mock trial defense attorney as developed by Luke Ellis.

  • Note sexes of witnesses.
  • Did the pretrial motion get granted?
    • Is the pretrial evidence being admitted?     ____yes       ____no
    • Don’t ask questions about evidence that is excluded.
    • If evidence is excluded, object if the prosecution still brings it up.
  • Did the prosecution get all  exhibits entered into evidence?   ____yes    ____no
    • Request the court to turn those exhibits not admitted to the wall.
  • Did the defendant get properly identified ?       ____yes         ____no
    • If defendant not identified, bring up in closing as reasonable doubt.
  • Take cues from the Judge.
    • If granting narratives, get ready to ask a second question (can also say ‘witness was almost finished your honor’).
    • Is Judge allowing witnesses to finish answer (try saying once: “objection, counsel is cutting off the witness answer”)?
    • Is Judge letting in all hearsay, if you say “not for truth, subsequent action.”
    • Don’t keep saying ‘may I be heard’, if Judge just turns and looks at you for your response.
  • No crazy objections-lean and mean.
  • If they say: “Doesn’t your witness statement say xxxx?”
    • Object to use of statement as Hearsay – out of court statement – there must be an exception (the only reason you can impeach with a statement is because it falls under the “prior inconsistent statement” exception to the rule.
  • If the objection is to material fact or impeaching – ask for “line and page number.” Argue against by pointing out other parts of the statement.
  • If they make mistake of showing you witness statement, witnesses read from other parts if appropriate- take time on cross.
Author Photo

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.