#MeToo Judge: “The Jury’s Position Is Going To Mean A Heck Of A Lot, Even More Than Their Dollar Value”

The #MeToo movement was everywhere, with claims of sexual assault in every news outlet, as reporters pressed lawyers for every side to make their closing arguments and deal with the appellate fight to come….

#MeToo Judge: "The Jury's Position Is Going To Mean A Heck Of A Lot, Even More Than Their Dollar Value"

The #MeToo movement was everywhere, with claims of sexual assault in every news outlet, as reporters pressed lawyers for every side to make their closing arguments and deal with the appellate fight to come. Or not. The argument from everybody to do one or the other proved futile. By week’s end, everyone seemed to be waiting on things to explode on their panels. Many people watching expected the seismic charge to come from the trial of Oncology mogul Elizabeth Holmes. But while Judge Bentley at some point ordered charges dropped and faced the possibility of a mistrial due to missed deadlines, the argument from the defense over how much they need the central site of the trial, the University of Phoenix, or the future of the rest of the case, remained stuck.

Few people wanted it to go to the deliberation phase which typically takes anywhere from two days to a week or more, with a primetime presentation in front of the jury that oftentimes boils over with fiery language and sneering. Every move these lawyers make can help sway an observer’s opinion, with no guarantees to the outcome either.

While the implications of the legal issues may one day be determinative of the outcome of this case, they are not so tangible, and, in the meantime, an interesting period of opportunity for both sides to portray the worst of the other – but also for insight into the human condition.

One of the recurring themes from last week was the bias that influences the verdict. To quote Judge Bentley, during Wednesday’s motions hearing in the case, “The jury’s position is going to mean a heck of a lot, even more than their dollar value.” The defense, it seems, will be stressing the stake that jurors put in these issues. But from what we’ve heard so far, the bias – in the minority – has been towards the defense on this issue, but has been so extreme that it could have significant financial implications if the prosecution secures a verdict that augments the defense’s success with what is at stake. The more that these issues get worked through, the more interesting it will be to see how many remain out of the jury’s reach. This one has my interest.

The beginning of this week, you may remember, was the oral arguments between Judge Bentley and Assistant US Attorney Marty Aylward over a motion to suppress notes related to elements of the case. One of the unique aspects of this trial is that what makes it so entertaining and important has been the constant defense attempt to publicly display the bias of the prosecution. To some degree, this has worked to the defense’s advantage, but with the judge intervening and discussing with them what is and isn’t permissible to exhibit in court – attorneys get adjusted to being held accountable for their actions. In this instance, the court agreed that the jury could have access to the information, but insisted that it be sequestered. The prosecution requested access to the material as well.

We may see that motion played back on cross-examination, but we also may hear the defense successfully argue that access to that evidence is simply too impactful to distribute through a mistrial. It will take awhile to sort out all the details here, but as this point, the court’s direction of who gets access to what information has drawn a lot of ire.

As for real results in this trial, or what happens next? Maybe. In April, the judge denied the prosecution’s request for an acquittal. And even though the defense has a strong case, it will take a lot more than admitting missteps by the prosecution for the case to be overturned.

The case appears to be a lot closer than the pundits who appeared on every news show think. And even a fall at this point to the prosecution’s legal argument of the case would be fun, but not sustainable.

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