Closing out the Semester with Pre-Law

By McKenna Nonnenmann

For the last meeting of the 22-23 school year, the Pre-Law Society members had a lot of fun in-store. We put our knowledge and luck to the test and showed our true competitive sides. This week we held a crossword competition regarding our law history and vocabulary. Whoever won would receive $250 scholarships!

The air was tense as we rushed to see who would complete the puzzle first. Questions included: Who is the current Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court? What is a first-year law student called? Which test is required to get into law school?

We all laughed as we guessed on how to spell certain words, and picked our brains for answers. Caleb Carrig, Rylee Smith, Jessica Hernandez, and Natalie Bradford prevailed and each won a scholarship. The puzzle was fun, but showed that we all have a lot left to learn! We should also probably practice our spelling. We even held a drawing for the members for another chance to win another scholarship. Chistina Biello and Cinthia Villarreal won, how lucky! 

As it was the last meeting of the 22-23 year, we had to bid our seniors goodbye. Five of our members, Jacelin Daniel, Jessica Hernandez, Daniela Hernandez and Jesus Ayala received their chords to wear with pride as they walk the stage to graduation. We wish them all well as they move forward on their law school path.

As a final note, we also created a planning committee for the fall, when we hope to have a major speaker come in, as well as an attorney, law-school deans, and an activity of our own!

Clinical Psychology Program Offers Unique Courtroom Simulation

Sam Houston State University professionals in the fields of Law and Forensic Psychology joined together to present an experiential learning experience for Clinical Psychology Ph.D. students enrolled in the Forensic Assessment course taught by Dr. Mary Alice Conroy, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Training. In this unique collaboration, Ph.D. students practiced presenting their professional opinions as expert witnesses in a simulated hearing to determine the competency of a criminal defendant to stand trial. Dr. Gene Roberts, Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Student Legal and Mediation Services Center, cross-examined the student expert witnesses.

At the first simulated hearing, Hannah Benemann testified as the forensic expert, while fellow Ph.D. student Hadley McCartin conducted the direct examination. Ms. Benemann began her testimony by explaining the legal standard to determine competency to stand trial. She provided details from her expert report to explain her findings regarding the defendant’s competency. During his cross-examination, Dr. Roberts asked intense questions of the expert in order to provide the Trier of Fact, the Judge, with the most accurate information to make a determination of competency to stand trial.

The process continued with the second simulated hearing in which Alison Concannon was the expert witness and Inneke Vargas handled the direct exam. At the last hearing, the expert witness was Kennedy Anderson, and Sarah Hernandez asked the questions on direct exam. The other three students in the Forensics Psychology course, Brianna Davis, Kayla Spenard, and Aislinn Tansey, will participate in a future simulated hearing.

Dr. Roberts has assisted in this learning experience for the past ten years. At these simulated hearings, Dr. Roberts changes his cross-examination approach for each student so that the entire class is exposed to a gamut of questioning strategies. By both showcasing different techniques to cross-examine an expert witness and providing incisive feedback and advice to each of the Forensic Psychology Ph.D. students, Dr. Roberts hopes to provide the students an idea of what they will experience as an expert witness in forensic psychology.

Many thanks to Dr. Gene Roberts and Dr. Conroy for allowing LEAP students to observe this unique and innovative academic exercise!