Pre-Trial Day 4 – Pulling The Weeds

The morning begins – a few new faces are in the crowd.  Attorneys look more tired than last week. I imagine that poring over the jury questionnaires all weekend took its toll.

Monsanto comes out of the gates, wanting thirty-five potential jurors kicked out because they have heard negative things about Monsanto.

Judge Bolanos asks why the two parties have not met to confer on the first twenty potential juror interviews, and says that if they absolutely cannot reach an agreement, she will discuss the matter further.  Judge and attorneys leave the court room for further discussion.

PROP 65 (Again)

Regarding CA Prop 65, Monsanto expresses great concern that due to the lack of understanding of how chemicals end up on that list, there will be unfair conclusions drawn that will impact the impartiality of the jurors. They have drafted instruction to the jurors for the judge to use if Prop 65 arises during the jury selection. It includes Judge Bolanos stepping in and redirecting the jurors.

Judge Bolanos decides that no one should bring up Prop 65. If a juror mentions it, she will listen to what they specifically say.  If they make a vague reference, but it is clear that they aren’t sure themselves about how Prop 65 works, counsel should simply redirect the juror.

Wisner notes that, for the record, the Plaintiff counsel believes that California determined that glyphosate causes cancer, and that needs to be identified and highlighted. They do not agree with the curative instruction that Monsanto presented.

ON TO JURY SELECTION

We reconvene in the larger courtroom, which now is packed with potential jurors.  20 potential jurors are in the box, but everyone in the courtroom is paying attention.

Just a sidenote – during the course of questioning, I am so impressed with the articulate responses of those in the box.  The jury candidates seem highly educated and knowledgable. One is a chemical engineer, another a molecular biologist.  One works in natural cosmetics, another a high school teacher.  It is a hugely impressive group. I suppose that is representative of those who can afford to reside in San Francisco in 2018.

Two jurors are asked to meet privately.  After about 45 minutes outside of the courtroom, they are both dismissed and two new jurors are put in their place.

PLAINTIFF QUESTIONING

Mr. Dickens will be asking the questions of the jurors – he has a kind, smiley disposition, which must help him in garnering trust of various parties involved.  He begins a long (I mean long – about 4 hours) line of questioning of the jurors, including many questions with this kind of gist:

How confident does the juror need to be in making a decision in a court case? (i.e. 100% sure, 51% sure?)

Will we ever know the exact cause/causes of cancer?

How long do you think someone needs to be exposed to a toxin in order for it to cause cancer (decades, years, weeks, days)?

Does a pattern of multiple similar cases need to be established in order to believe that Roundup causes cancer, or is other scientific data sufficient?

How useful are warning labels?

How do you feel about awarding damages in the many millions of dollars for emotional distress?

Discuss any previous information you’ve heard about Monsanto/Roundup

You can go buy Roundup today at Home Depot – does this make you believe that it must be safe?

If the EPA says something is safe, do you believe that it is?

MONSANTO QUESTIONING

At the end of the afternoon session, Ms. Edwards has her turn to question the box. Unfortunately, people in the back of the room can’t hear her, so a microphone is set up in front of her.  I feel for her there – my voice doesn’t always carry either.  Ms. Edwards opens thoughtfully and confidently, explaining that she has tried a lot of cases in San Francisco. She stresses how critical it is to be honest about any biases from the outset.   I have to wonder how any of these cosmopolitan people have NOT heard of Monsanto just by existing in life.

Ms. Edwards’ questions were few, given the time constraint. For matters of consolidation, I will highlight the gist here as well:

Who has experience in getting rid of weeds?

Have you used chemicals to get rid of weeds?

Who comes to this case with bias against Monsanto?

Many jurors discuss their personal preference to avoid of chemicals whenever possible.

Just before time runs out on the day, several of the jury members fess up that, upon reflection, it will be hard to completely forget the information that they have heard or read about Monsanto over the years.

That isn’t a fantastic sign for getting the trial rolling — tomorrow we will most definitely be meeting more potential jurors.  Opening statements are tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.

A FEW MOMENTS OF LEVITY

  • One juror who seems like a card likes to answer with only “NOPE”
  • One juror discusses that rather than a green thumb, he has a thumb of pestilence that kills his mother’s garden
  • Several potential jurors outside of the box were taking notes more ferociously than me
  • It is questionable if the EPA tests air quality in their own office buildings
  • One juror says that he takes issue with some lawsuits – like when a man climbed a tree, fell in the neighbor’s yard, and sued the neighbor for not warning him about the tree.
  • Wisner only owns two suits – kind of strange for an attorney?

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