Murder, Hollywood style

Columbia College students tackle acclaimed film director's murder.


On June 16, 2008, Jacob Bennett was shot down in cold blood. Bennett was the acclaimed film director of Trifecta Entertainment, a family man and a loving husband about to celebrate his 22nd wedding anniversary. He never got the chance.

Bennett died because of the bullet that stopped his heart. We know this for a fact. We also know for a fact that that bullet was fired by the gun of former employee Casey Maxwell. Maxwell and Jackie Owens, another employee, concocted a plan to murder their boss to gain a controlling share of Trifecta.

Maxwell swears he did not shoot Bennett. Maxwell has already pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of tampering with evidence, claiming he was just a puppet in Jackie Owens' scheme. The state intends to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Owens murdered Bennett.

All this according to the prosecutors of the Columbia College Mock Trial Team. The college's defense team has a completely different take on the completely fictional case, tried in October 2009.

Mock Trial Team members
Mock Trial is a national competition for undergraduate students interested in America’s judicial system. This year teams throughout the nation were assigned the Jackie Owens case A fictional court case is assigned for all of the schools to learn. Members are assigned to roles such as defense attorney, witness or defendant, and they are judged on their performance in these roles.

Four teams competed in two rounds in the Columbia, Mo., Mock Trial event in Brown Hall: the Columbia College team, two teams from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and one team from Washburn University, Topeka, Kan.. The Columbia College team is coached by Barry Langford, chair and instructor in Criminal Justice, and Dr. David Roebuck, professor of Political Science.

The Columbia College team placed second, just three points behind Washburn. Roebuck declared himself satisfied with the team's performance, especially since this was the first competition of the year.

Each year the team also travels to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to participate in a regional competition against other Midwestern schools.

Mock Trial is not for those who are timid about making public speeches. Teams are not limited to criminal justice majors but anyone interested in the judicial process. A team is made up of six to 10 students, and team members act as attorneys and witnesses for both the defense and prosecution.

“In the past years 11 years Columbia College has had a good success rate,” says Langford. Last year, Columbia College student Rachel Wester was recognized as All-Regional Attorney and Megan Cram as All-Regional Witness.

Mock Trial is only offered in the fall semester, so students wishing to join and get a taste of the judicial system will have to wait until next year. For more information on Mock Trial, contact Barry Langford, chair of the Criminal Justice Administration at (573) 875-7484 or