Ryan Krupp, a third year law student at UMKC School of Law, tried his first jury trial on November 1, 2017. Professor S. Rafe Foreman’s Master of Clinical Advocacy course offers students unique opportunities to get their hands on real cases. Under the advisement and supervision of Parke Stevens, Jr. (J.D. ’13), Prosecuting Attorney for Texas County, and Foreman, Krupp was able to confidently try the case.
After taking Trial Ad I and II and Evidence, Krupp enrolled in Foreman’s Master of Clinical Advocacy course with three other students.
In September, Stevens, who often takes on prison inmate violence cases, brought a case to Foreman’s course. Stevens often offers to let Foreman’s students to try cases; last December, Taylor Haas (J.D. ’17) tried and won one of Stevens’ cases.
In this case, an inmate at the Missouri Department of Corrections committed violence against a guard. Krupp welcomed the case and got to work.
“We wanted to just charge a Level A felony, which would result in 10 years to life in prison,” said Krupp.
Initially, when the case was brought the Master of Clinical Advocacy course, the case was set for trial docket in the next two weeks. However, after Krupp swiftly prepared and practiced voir dire to figure out jury selection questions, the case was continued until November 1.
“I did most everything for the case,” Krupp said. “Park covered legal aspects that we would then talk about, but I did the jury selection, voir dire, opening statements, the direct examination and closing argument.”
The Missouri Supreme Court Rule 13 Certification allows students to appear in court and provide legal services. Under a supervising attorney, the student can present a case before a judge, directly and personally. Krupp has Rule 13 certification in both Missouri and Kansas, due to his job with the District Attorney of Kansas.
Krupp emphasized, much as Foreman does, how important voir dire is for a case like this. Voir dire is the process by which attorneys select certain jurors to hear a case.
“This case wasn’t in my favor, so I needed a jury without bias,” said Krupp.
The attorney, in this case Krupp, is allowed to question jurors about their backgrounds and potential biases before they are chosen to sit on the jury.
“You present your honesty,” Krupp said, “and you have to understand people’s emotions.”
Krupp said that, in a case like this, it’s important to ask questions to figure out how defined the law is to the jurors. He gave the example of the fact that it is a federal crime if someone opens another person’s mail. Krupp would offer his opinion, whether he thought that law made sense or whether it was a “breakable” law, and then ask what the jurors thought.
“In this case, I needed to know who was a rule follower, who thinks the rules can bend, and who thinks any rule can be broken,” said Krupp.
Stevens trusted in Krupp to handle the case from beginning to end, and Krupp said he felt confident when the time came. While preparing, he talked through the case with Foreman and received suggestions and feedback.
“I felt nervous and talked too fast at first, but within a couple minutes, I felt prepared and capable of doing it all,” said Krupp.
The jury deliberated for a little over an hour and returned with a not-guilty verdict.
“It was a good experience to try a case and really know what it’s like,” he said. “I felt like I was in a situation where I could only succeed because of all the support I had. So even if the verdict didn’t come, which it didn’t for me, I still got an experience that few students get, which I’m very thankful for.”
Krupp believes that the advocacy courses and the mock trial opportunities at UMKC School of Law provide experiential learning that is unmatched and praised Foreman as a great instructor for voir dire.
“If you immerse yourself in what we do at the law school,” Krupp said, “then when you try a real case, you realize how prepared you really are for it.”