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Trial Practicum

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Drake is the only American law school where all first-year classes shift to a campus courtroom for a week, enabling students to view an actual state or federal trial.

The First-Year Trial Practicum at Drake Law School is a unique program. Every spring since 1998, the first year classes have been moved to the Neal and Bea Smith’s Law Center courtroom.  The law school courtroom has been designated as an official courtroom for the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Iowa.  

The students gather in that courtroom to observe an actual jury trial from start to finish.  Murder, child endangerment, robbery, employment discrimination cases have all been litigated in front of a jury, start to finish, with first year law students watching.  Those students have had the unique ability to question judges, lawyers and even jurors (following the verdict).   

Drake Law students don’t just observe trials; they also participate in them. Remarkably, second-year law student Brecklyn Carey gave the opening argument in the Sahouri trial in 2021 and assisted in the prosecution of the case, as part of her Prosecution Internship course. “In 2020, I had the opportunity to watch a vehicular homicide case from voir dire to verdict alongside my peers as part of the Trial Practicum program,” said Carey. “In 2021, instead of sitting in the gallery, I was sitting at counsel table! I gave my own opening statement and directed a witness during the trial; it’s incredible to see how much you can learn and grow in one year’s time at Drake Law through their experiential learning programs.”

The trial practicum introduces the law to students in a way that no textbook can ever quite capture. Most importantly, the event models the values of civility, professionalism, and public service essential to the legal system.

The case for 2022 is State v. Adele Torbor. He is charged with Burglary 2nd and Theft 1st, both class "C" felonies.  

Drake Law School is offering free access to the video recordings of the trial to the public. The videos can be accessed HERE.

Past Case Examples

State of Iowa v. John Molloy – The defendant was tried for Murder in the First Degree for the shooting death of his drug supplier.

State of Iowa v. Andrea Sahouri - The defendant was a Des Moines Register reporter who was charged with failure to disperse and interference with official acts during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. The case received international attention and was live streamed worldwide.

State of Iowa v. Sera Alexander  – The defendant was charged with killing her stepfather.

State of Iowa v. Bernard Montez Davis – A case accusing the defendant of burglary in the third degree.

State of Iowa v. Phankhy Pongxayavong – This case involved a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

State of Iowa v. Andrea LaForge – This case involved homicide by vehicle-OWI, homicide by vehicle-reckless, and involuntary manslaughter.

State of Iowa v. Linda Wilson – The defendant was charged with theft in the second degree and theft in the third degree, both felonies.

For more information about the history and pedagogy of the Trial Practicum read "Trial practicum integral to first-year law school curriculum", 90 JUDICATURE 114 (Nov.-Dec 2006), by Professor Emeritus Russell Lovell, II, the first director of the Trial Practicum program.

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