UNA Student Wins Best Attorney Award At Mock Trials Tournament
Nov. 18, 2009
FLORENCE, Ala. – All Perry Mason and Bobby Donnell needed in the courtroom was good acting skill. But for University of North Alabama junior Cody Wix, it’s been all about living and breathing the law and being a lightning-fast thinker on his feet.
And it’s already paid off. Wix, a journalism major from Muscle Shoals, was recently one of only five students named a Best Attorney for his defense work at the 19th annual Mid-South Invitational Tournament, a mock-trial competition at Middle Tennessee State University. The tournament showcased about 500 pre-law students from more than 60 different universities, such as Vanderbilt, Emory, Southern California, Case Western and South Carolina.
As a defense attorney, Wix won a perfect 20 out of a possible 20 points from the judges.
At the tournament, Wix and 12 other UNA students argued both sides of a murder case in which the defendant is accused of conspiracy to kill a business colleague. By the end of the tournament, the student-attorneys had argued the case four times – twice for the defense and twice for the prosecution.
“The judges essentially look at every single thing you do every time you’re up there,” Wix said, which is why he focused on more than his legal knowledge and familiarity with the case.
The key to successfully arguing his case, Wix said, was “being able to think on your feet. That’s something you have to learn or you fall on your face. And it’s not something you can be taught. You just have to do it and do it and do it. To me, that’s one of the most important things I get out of mock trials, besides learning the rules of evidence.”
He said it’s also an ideal opportunity to sharpen his eye for weaknesses in an opponent’s case – something he found plenty of when he was playing defense attorney. For example, he said, the chief detective never got a search warrant to search the crime scene, and the crime-scene investigator had a piece of physical evidence that could have come from anywhere, not necessarily the crime scene. “You find every hole you can in their case,” Wix said, “and you keep hitting and keep hitting and keep hitting until they don’t have a case left.”
However, the holes in an opponent’s case or the evidence in your own isn’t always easy to find. For example, one of the five prescribed prosecution witnesses in the case was an eyewitness to the crime, but there was a major flaw: He had terrible eyesight, and it was dark out when the crime was committed.
“You have to figure out how to deal with challenges like that in the case, and it can make things very difficult,” Wix said.
The practice in meeting challenges like that are what make tournaments like this one ideal preparation for law school, said senior David Stewart, of Russellville, who served with Wix as one of the student leaders of the UNA mock trial team. “Looking at what you do in the mock trials and understanding what the first year of law school is going to be like, it feels like you’ve already been there,” he said.
Wix added that students who serve on college mock trial teams commonly find later that, in first-year law, “they know procedure and they know rules of evidence before ever walking in the door to law school.
“Law school is so competitive,” he said, “any kind of leg up you can get helps so much, and this definitely gives you a leg up.”
The UNA mock trial team will compete in two more invitational tournaments in January before competing in the regionals in Birmingham the following month.