In light of the recently implemented reforms in Uzbekistan, Regional Dialogue organized a three-day mock trial event aimed at enhancing the skills of prosecutors and defense advocates in various aspects of witness examination. The participants engaged in activities such as direct examination, cross-examination, and the admission of tangible evidence, with a unique approach of reversing their roles to facilitate a comprehensive learning experience. Petra Gorjup, the Head of Regional Dialogue's branch office, emphasized the significance of this event in her opening statement, stating, "Uzbekistan is actively working towards adopting changes that will render its legal system more adversarial. We are optimistic that this program will equip the participants with effective skills for questioning witnesses during a trial."
Over the three days about 30 participants representing all regions of Uzbekistan and three US experts, Larry D. Murrell, Jr, a Florida Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer, Robert Kent Cassibry, a career U.S. prosecutor and former Supervisory Assistant Director-Criminal Programs at the U.S Department of Justice National Advocacy Center, and Gregory Weddle, a former U.S. prosecutor and current Regional Dialogue’s Legal Specialist, engaged in a comprehensive workshop program. The workshop included a presentation and discussion on the role of questioning the witnesses at a trial in an adversarial system of criminal justice, and a mock trial scenario based on the recently concluded high-profile criminal case of the State of South Carolina v. Alex Murdaugh. The mock trial fully engaged all attendees, assigning the role of a witness, direct examiner, or cross-examiner to each participant. The mock trial exercise provided an invaluable opportunity for participants to assume opposing roles, resulting in a deeper understanding of the challenges and considerations faced by their counterparts and enriching their overall comprehension of courtroom dynamics. After the mock trial, the international experts gave individual feedback to each participant, commenting on their strengths and giving valuable suggestions on what needs to be improved. By the end of the three-day workshop and mock trial, the participants, in addition to improving their theoretical and practical skills on direct examination, cross-examination, objections, and presenting the evidence, had a great opportunity to improve their public speaking, critical thinking, the art of forming a persuasive and cohesive arguments, and navigating the trial with skillfully crafted questions as presenting a story. “You are telling a story. The key is how you tell the story,” said Gregory Weddle.
This event was organized by Regional Dialogue, with grant support from the U.S. State Department INL Bureau, and in cooperation with the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Chamber of Advocates of the Republic of Uzbekistan.