The judge accepted the accountant as a hostile witness. The prosecutors huddled at their table, whispering curses, and the 21-year-old UF student knew it was over. Team Targaryen had won.

Charlene Ochogo, a UF telecommunication senior, and her team were one of four Liti-Gators teams that competed in the Middle Tennessee State University’s annual Mid-South Invitational Mock Trial Tournament — one of the country’s largest undergraduate mock trial competitions.

While facing Wheaton College, Ochogo’s team decided to go with a risky move and create a “hostile witness” — someone who is used as a scapegoat for the defendant to establish reasonable doubt among the jurors.

“It’s pretty much the most exciting thing you can do in a mock trial,” she said.

Team Targaryen took home first place, and Team Lannister was fifth in its division. Gators won other awards as well.

To prepare for competitions, Laura Sjoberg, a UF associate professor of political science, coaches the mock trial competitive teams two evenings per week. Practices are evenly divided up among constructing cases, cross examination and closing arguments. Then, they do scrimmages with different skill drills, Sjoberg said.

“[Students] really gain analytical skills and confidence,” Sjoberg said. “And those things are not only applicable to the majority of them who want to go to law school but also to those who want to be actors and scientists.”

Two of the four UF trial teams will travel to North Carolina for the next competition at Duke University, which begins Saturday.

A version of this story ran on page 8 on 11/13/2013 under the headline "UF team wins mock trial competition with hostile witness move"

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