If the defense was to bring their jury consultant back, there would be major problems. First, no room for that person to sit. Second, the jurors’ faces are covered by masks. You can see no expression. Every so often you can see someone nod. But there is no real rhyme or reason to that. They are also spread out across the entire courtroom. You can’t glance over at them. You’d have to scan dozens of linear feet.
Part of being in trial, includes feeling of the jury. Now they are physically hidden. Still, can sense something. They are calm. They are not restless. No one is dozing. They are paying close attention. Some taking notes.
The first family member, T. testifies. First use photos and talk about family life and her dad. Then she takes us to the hospital.
Have handled many trials where bad things have happened to plaintiffs. But this is probably the most awful gruesome injury have ever helped to bring alive for a jury. She is wearing the clear plastic mask. But every single word she says still lands like a blow. We can see him in our minds. She never collapses. But thankfully it’s time for afternoon break. I need one maybe more than she does.
There’s a character in Guardians of the Galaxy named Mantis. An empath. This is how I work with plaintiffs and damages witnesses. Am their safe zone. But also it’s as if there is a direct line connecting us. And so as T. is telling the most terrible story of her life, emotionally it feels like I’m living it through her. Except I can’t cry in front of the jury. It is brutal, raw, ravaged testimony. The weight of it is overwhelming. Feel my way through to the final question. There has to be more than pain in this story. And so I say: What do you feel your father would have been most proud of about you.
Defense counsel do not breathe during the entire testimony and there is no cross.
Then it’s time for J. Was not sure if we would get to him today. But we are moving swiftly. He moves the story of his family and father’s death forward through his own agonizing experience. I worry that it is just too much for one day. Had wanted him the next day. But their stories fit together beautifully.
I stand there in black kitten heel booties looking calm. But want to run out of the room. The weight of the testimony crushes me. J. finishes. And there are 13 minutes left before the end of the day.
I say: Your honor. Plaintiff would like permission to stop a little early.
Now this comes after having told Judge P that we will be resting way ahead of schedule.
She looks at me with a half smile and says: do you have any more witnesses.
Just the P. family, your honor.
Well then, she says.
Your honor, if possible I’d rather not put them on and then not be able to complete (when the testimony is so gut wrenching I don’t say aloud but we all know this).
No. She wants us to continue. This makes me mad. But I look pleased to continue.
So J. is sworn in and begins. She takes us up to the first hospital. And we are done for the day. In the middle of her distress.
Photo: Trial day 6