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In the twenty first 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, in the start of a three-part season finale, either Dr. Bull gives the single most powerful consultation to an attorney ever or the whole thing was nonsense. I will explain, and you can decide.
The Case of Benny, Finally
Finally, Benny is charged with the crime we have been hearing about/sleeping through for weeks, but the charges are more alarming than expected. He is not just charged with being involved in wrongful imprisonment from when he was a prosecutor. He is charged with falsifying evidence by planting a victim’s contact lens in an alleged serial killer’s home.
Late at night, Bull has his neurolinguistics expert Marissa find the appropriate lawyer to defend Benny. She calls Bull at 4 a.m. and wakes him to tell him that the lawyer wants to meet him at 4:30 a.m. at an empty restaurant. It is worthwhile to stop here a moment and ponder whether this is a setup for an “it was all a dream” story that will run through these last three episodes. (I promise to avoid more references to the film “Mulholland Drive” if you hear me out). There is ample evidence for this being a dream-story — or an “Inception”!
First, Bull starts to leave a message for Marissa about the thrilling dream he was having when a strange, supposedly sexy lawyer (How would I know? I’m a married man) named J.P. Nunnelly (played by Eliza Dushku) appears out of nowhere in an empty restaurant in the middle of the night. They have a somewhat nonsensical conversation about Nunnelly being a fixer who will handle Benny’s case for free. (Fun fact: I saw them setting up to film this scene while nonchalantly walking my dog. As in, “Hey, are you being ‘chalant’?” “Oh, no! I’m an urbane New Yorker just walking my dog. And stalking.”)
Second, there are then a number of scenes that include weirdly stilted soap opera type acting between Michael Weatherly (Dr. Bull) and Dushku of the now-I’m-really-angry, now-I’m-slightly-less-angry style that is supposed to be read as sexual tension, but the chemistry between them is like that between cold cuts on a plate (still married). Nunnelly also declares that she is the greatest litigator, yet Bull had never previously heard of her.
Third, this strange manner of behavior is brought into the courtroom in which Nunnelly gives an oddly icy direct examination of Benny as if she hates him.
The Greatest Consultation in the History of Consulting
It is here that we get to the one moment in which we see Bull consult during this episode. The team explains to Nunnelly that the mirror jury now loves Benny because of her humanizing direct exam. Bull says that it is not enough though. Nunnelly still needs to do something else to win the case.
Many would wonder how that is a helpful bit of consulting, and might use this as evidence that all jury consultants are charlatans who say nothing while giving a meaningful guru look. (And, yes, I do practice in a mirror.)
Apparently, though, this is all that Nunnelly needs to hear. She comes up with new evidence midtrial, out of the blue. She calls a surprise witness, Benny’s old colleague, who, with little pressure applied, confesses that it was he who planted the evidence by picking up the contact lens off a decomposing body with his bare DNA-oozing finger and bringing it to the suspect’s home for Benny to find.
And that’s it. Benny is free to go. After weeks of dull build-up, this story ends with the world’s dullest anti-climax.
Is That What Jury Consulting is Like?
It is at this point that we usually discuss whether this is what jury consulting is really like, but in this episode we only get this one miraculous intervention.
What are we to make of it? Bull encouraged Nunnelly to win the case so she came up with new evidence and won? Is Bull a genius at bringing out the best in his attorneys or is my whole life a lie? I leave this to you to ponder.
Next week, part two of the three-part season finale, as we begin to wind down this column as well. Yes, it’s time to start saying our goodbyes. You are welcome to email me any final questions and last requests.
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