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In the fifteenth edition of his weekly column in Law360, DOAR’s real-life New York City Jury Consultant and Psychologist reviews the fictional NYC Jury Consultant/Psychologist on the television series “Bull,” focusing on what litigation is really like in the trenches.
This week, an interesting episode full of strategy and counterstrategy goes out the window when Bull has a romance with the opposing counsel during trial. This is a consistent problem for jury consultants: We cannot turn off our hearts, your honor.
Caution: Sanctimonious preaching ahead.
The Case Of The Super-Rich Guy
In this episode, Bull works for the district attorney against a real estate developer accused of manslaughter for allowing people to use and die within a skybridge that falls to the ground in a horrifying sequence shown at the beginning of the episode.
As readers of this column, and even people who are not related to me, know, lately the show has been experimenting with throwing obstacles in the way of Bull’s team using their made-up high-tech gadgetry, so that Bull must resort to the jury consulting done by the little people. As the first obstacle this week, Bull is hired after jury selection has been completed. Next, the developer/defendant owns the building TAC is in, so during trial, he turns off TAC’s power, and elevator key cards, so they are unable to use their magnificent walls of monitors, which seem mostly to be used to watch mundane news clips. Finally, when Bull tries to use a shadow jury of people sitting in the pews to watch the trial and give daily feedback, the developer buys the shadow jurors off and sends them away.
What can they do under these primitive conditions? Benny gives a hoary old chestnut of a speech about how jury selection is actually juror deselection to the DA who has just picked the jury instead of just turning to the camera and saying “This is for you, home viewers.” Bull then sets about deselecting jurors after the fact when he decides that he does not like the DA’s seated jurors (although, while perusing the jury he makes the odd claim that he dislikes one juror who was involved in Occupy Wall Street because the juror loves billionaires which is like saying that a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals member loves to eat bunny meat).
Bull’s team monitors the social media of the jurors and gets the judge to kick out one who wrote on Reddit that he smokes weed before trial every morning (and since when is that a cri — never mind). Another juror is kicked after a TAC member stalks and photographs him talking to a reporter.
Bull’s side puts on an engineering expert who has nice animated graphics, but that is about it for the ordinary jury consulting. Bull goes on to diagnose the developer as a sociopath due to his micro-expressions being out of sync (this is just short of diagnosing him by measuring his head with calipers). Cable then hacks into a server farm, finds all of the developer’s dictated emails ever and quickly finds incriminating ones, because she is, you know, a hacker. Danny meanwhile very easily convinces a traumatized key witness to testify, after which he commits suicide or is murdered by the developer. And the developer offers Bull $10 million mid-trial.
Bull’s side wins for the moment, but all of this strategy and counterstrategy is for naught, because Bull snuggles with the opposing counsel, so when the developer is convicted, he states that he will use this evidence of collusion as the basis of his appeal. And frankly, he is right, but, although they repeatedly discuss how their work life is more important than their personal lives, Bull and the attorney do not seem to care that they have created legal and ethical fiascos. Their reaction is truly strange, out of character and unnerving, but perhaps I missed some of their micro-expressions.
So if they won’t say it I will. Let that be a lesson to all jury consultants: Keep the collusion in your pants until after the trial.
Is That What Jury Consulting Is Like?
There were a couple of hints of actual jury consulting in this episode.
Juror Social Media Monitoring Mid-Trial
Although it is unlikely that a jury consultant would find a random juror comment on Reddit where people use fake names, consultants are increasingly offering to monitor seated jurors’ social media postings for comments that could disqualify the juror. The danger of this is that a consultant could find something that hurts one’s own side and would be compelled to report it.
The animated graphics used by the expert witness were an accurate representation of the types of explanatory visuals now used routinely in jury trials, especially those involving mechanical devices as in this case. Later big huge words during closing on the screen? Not so artful.
What was inaccurate, illegal and unethical? Only the stalking of jurors, hacking of private property, psychiatric malpractice, kissing of opposing counsel, general development of appealable issues and acting in such a way that the guilty walk free.
Hey, when did this column get so preachy? Next week, back to carefree japes, jackanapery and malarkey.
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