Following a verdict, lawyers sometimes take the time to talk to the jurors. It is not always a pleasant conversation.
Monsanto's attorneys, for example, were taken aback by juror comments following a trial over its weed killer Roundup. Jurors had just handed a verdict for $2.055 billion to the plaintiffs, who said they got cancer from the herbicide. The verdict was shocking enough, but the juror comments told the real story.
Trial lawyers may not always like what they hear, but they really need to listen to juries.
Bayer AG acquired the biotech company Monsanto, only to have its shares plummet in the wake of adverse court decisions. Juries have pounded the company over the impact of Roundup on peoples' lives. After the latest defeat, one juror told company lawyers that he wanted them to prove in the courtroom that the chemical was safe. "I wanted you to get up and drink it," the unidentified juror said. (Talk about demonstrative evidence.)
Of course, that didn't happen and it's not likely to happen in future trials. But the company lawyers have a problem: the juror was channeling a Monsanto lobbyist who claimed in a televised interview that "you could drink a whole quart of it, and it won't hurt you." That quote is hard to unhear, even if jurors never hear it. The lawyers, for their part, have to drink it in. How are they going to deal with jurors next time? Maybe next time they should settle before the jury speaks? Either way, juror comments matter.
In high-profile cases like the Monsanto trials, however, sometimes jurors will try to parlay their comments into interviews, book deals, and more than 15 minutes of fame. If litigants and attorneys can do it, why not the average American juror?
Civil and criminal cases are different, of course. In criminal cases, they are instructed not to talk to anybody -- for personal gain -- about their cases for at least 90 days. Jonna Spilbor, an attorney and commentator, would rather not hear from those jurors at all. She says they can undermine their own verdicts. She cites the Hon. Norm Crosby, who said: "When you go into court, you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty."
Crosby, by the way, is a comedian, not a judge. Lawyers, including those who don't listen to juries, are neither.