The Mock Trial of the Winter Soldier was an amazing success. The room was filled to capacity with over 120 people attending. The audience actually cheered for a mock trial. It is extremely reaffirming to see the public care so deeply about how our courts work. It was also cool to see so many Captain America shirts and the #FreeBucky hash tag.
I want to thank the law students from McGeorge, Whittier, and Michigan, who poured their hearts into their opening statements, witness examinations, and closing arguments. The two teams actually held an informal meet and confer over the admissibility of trial exhibits, which resulted in a motion in limine before the trial. The students might not have realized it, but they actually were following the goal of “cooperation” as stated in the Amendments to the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure in our fictional criminal trial. There is plenty of hope for the future of the practice of law.
The volunteers who were the witnesses truly brought the story to life. A huge thank you to all of them, especially Cat Kim, who is a graduate of Columbia and Judge Grewal’s law clerk. Cat volunteered to be the Black Widow, which included making her own costume.
Cat was given the task of not stating Nick Fury is alive in the MCU, while also not committing perjury. She was outstanding and recruited her friend Andrew to be James Buchanan Barnes. Andrew flew out from Denver to help. He truly understood the character of Bucky, both in comics and the movies. Andrew worked very diligently with the Defense Team and expert to help capture Bucky’s mental state. Job well done to both Cat and Andrew.
Dr. Janina Scarlet and Dr. Andrea Letamendi are both huge credits to the profession of psychology. Both wrote detailed expert reports that took a deep dive into PTSD and the mental capacity of whether Bucky knew right from wrong at the time of the charges against him. This trial was a battle of the experts and both doctors delivered big. Both doctors spend their days helping those who need help and I greatly appreciated their efforts to make this trial successful.
This trial would not have happened without the amazing legal star power who volunteered to help our law students. Neel Chatterjee from Orrick is one of the best intellectual property lawyers in the country. Neel dutifully volunteered his time with the Prosecution team, working with law students and Dr. Letamendi in helping them prepare their case.
Attorneys Jordon Huppert and Kean Zimmerman both worked with the Defense team helping them prepare. Jordon is based in Oregon and Kean in Connecticut, who both leveraged Google Docs and Skype to mentor law students in Sacramento, Michigan, and Whittier to prepare their case.
Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal is an excellent community outreach ambassador for the Courts. Judge Grewal masterfully presided over the trial. This might have been the only time an audience cheer “here comes the judge.” I cannot thank the Judge enough for participating. It was also extremely endearing to see his daughter attend, who cosplayed as Supergirl. She deserves a medal for quietly sitting through our two-hour trial.
The mock trial was also a serious validation of the right to a jury trial. The jurors deliberated as a panel, giving the audience a window into how juries work. Even with a fictional case, the comments made about the mental capacity of the Defendant were inspiring. The jurors paid attention, took notes, and were very thoughtful in their analysis.
Only one juror thought Bucky was guilty and that he did understand the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the charges, resulting in some interesting debate. The jury foreman asked the one holdout, “Not to get too personal, but when was the last time you were put in suspended animation?”
Real juries do not have fact patterns like the Winter Soldier, but those who serve in real juries do their absolute best to ensure justice is served.
I want to thank Mike Towry for asking us to do a mock trial at San Diego Comic Fest. This has been an amazing experience and I appreciate all he did for our law students to have this fantastic opportunity. Mike is a true statesman of geeks and a gentleman. Thank you for making this a reality.
In closing, I want to thank my friends at Zapproved for sponsoring the airfare for one of the mock trial students. One of the students is a night student, second in her class, and a mother of three. She also is fighting stage four-breast cancer. Law school is hard enough under normal circumstances, but to be excelling while having to endure cancer treatments is beyond inspiring. I appreciate Zapproved sponsoring her airline ticket and SDCF for covering her hotel in order for her to participate.