BHS senior loves to play a defense lawyer, but not in real life

Advisers in the fine arts programs at Brainerd High School name a Fine Arts Student of the Week every week. This week it is for mock trial.

Emma McConville.
Brainerd High School Emma McConville was named this week's Fine Arts Student of the Week for her work in mock trial. McConville played a lawyer and a witness this year. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

Emma McConville

Grade: Senior

Age: 18.

Art focus: Brainerd High School mock trial.


Adviser nomination: “Emma is the leader of the mock trial team this year. This is her third year in mock trial and her experience really shows. She has been a lawyer all three years and this year she is also playing the part of a police officer for the prosecution. In each competition, the opposing team selects the best lawyer and best witness from the other side. In her first time on the witness stand, she earned the best witness award and in another trial she earned the best lawyer. She is motivated and hardworking on her own parts, but she is especially helpful to the new lawyers in helping them formulate questions. She celebrates everyone’s wins and she helps them when there is a problem to work through, such as a response to a tricky objection. Emma never fails to be considerate of everyone’s feelings and works to make practice fun.”

Memorable fine arts achievement: Being a witness and a lawyer during the same season this year.

Artist most admired: Composer Michael Sweeney.

Other fine arts activities: Debate (formerly), play the clarinet in Symphonic Band and tenor saxophone in Wind Symphony.

What interested you in mock trial? I joined in 10th grade because I had two years of debate experience. Debate helped me with public speaking and mock trial was another way for me to use public speaking. I thought mock trials would be pretty cool. The two are a lot different. (Mock trial) is more like being dramatic and more creative with your responses and how you perform. It taught me how to work better on a team. I guess that’s what kind of attracted me, the more that I think about it, that it just seems like it's super fun to portray, like a lawyer in a courtroom or even a witness and just kind of be a part of that process.

I was the only senior in mock trial this year. There were a lot of 10th graders and I think one junior in it.

Skills you learned in mock trial? Public speaking skills for sure and working together as a team and having something to care about. I perform mainly as a defense lawyer so when I look at a case, I look at what’s important, what is worth caring about. It also taught me to be quick on my feet, time management and just basic writing skills.

We got our case in October and competition begins in January. So we have time to plan out everything ... It's a good time management thing. This year went a lot better and I was able to draft my questions quickly to be able to prepare my part and start rehearsing and memorizing stuff to be prepared for trial.


Biggest challenge? I think the biggest challenge is probably being quick on your feet. Mock trial is very prepared, but sometimes you may not expect the other side might have something. So you just have to work it all in there into what you already have. Some people like my call out objections, just to throw us off. So you really have to know the set rules ... It's kind of crazy when you see the amount of rules and the stipulations that we have to go through ... You really have to find a way to use the rules to your advantage.

What is the case about? It's about a third-degree murder case involving two best friends, one Sam Soto, the defendant, and Brandan Webster, who died from an opioid overdose.The state is trying to prosecute Sam for indirectly or directly giving him opioids or oxycodone in this case. It's the defense’s side to prove within reasonable doubt that he hadn't done this and it's the state side to prove that he has indirectly or directly handed him opioids.

How did you fight it? In mock trial, they always try and set up little holes that you can pick at. This case actually kind of favored the defense rather than the prosecution, because there were so many holes. There were two kinds of opioids that it could have been ... and the medical examiner didn't test for acetaminophen, which is a key component of the case for the prosecution. We don't know if it's the oxycodone that could have killed Brandan or if it was the Percocet. We also played in that alcohol could have played a huge role in it ... and we also pointed out the flaws in the medical examiner's autopsy.

What motivates you to help others? When I first started in mock trial, I was a lawyer on both sides, so I had to do closings on both sides. I had already a lot on my plate and I actually had to figure it out and I worked really close with the lawyer that we usually work with and she really helped me with my questions and gave me ideas. I know how stressful it is to be a lawyer, as well as a witness so I told the other students if they had any questions to come to me. I want to make it less stressful for you because I have a lot of experience.

After high school plans? To attend Concordia College in Moorhead to get a degree in music education. I want to be a band director. Being a lawyer would be too stressful, a lot of fun to act like one, but too stressful to be one.

Favorite movie: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Favorite TV show: “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

Favorite Book: “Lockwood and Co.” book series.


Favorite song: “Champions” by Astronaut.

Favorite band: I Don't Know How But They Found Me.

Favorite restaurant: Anything Mexican.

Favorite subject: History or band.

Something people don’t know about you: I really like anime.

Biggest pet peeve: “When people talk over each other. I can only hear one person talk and I can’t have too much noise going on.”

Favorite podcast: “Anxious Machine.” It is about people and their life experiences. It's by a guy from Minnesota and I loved it.

Hobbies: Listening to podcasts, exercising and doing makeup.


Parents: Phillip and Lisa McConville of Breezy Point.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at or 218-855-5851. Follow me at on Twitter.
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