Another dreary, rainy San Francisco morning. To make my drive more interesting, I happen upon a podcast discussing the woeful tale of women who left the US to join ISIS, and now want to come home. It isn’t the jolliest of mood-boosting inspiration, though the San Francisco weather doesn’t seem such a cross to bear in comparison. This morning, I slapped on some shoes that I joyfully rediscovered in my closet. They are Euro cool. Walking across the street to the courthouse, I realize that I stowed my Euro cool loafers away in the closet with the hope to eventually bring them to the cobbler to stretch them out of their ancient-foot-binder shape. Binding a size 9 (on a good day) foot is no easy task. For today, I will be walking with a very noticeable limp, but surely will get no perks in the security line.
Getting word that Chhabria had officially set sanctions on Aimee Wagstaff, I dash down the hall to the courtroom as not to miss a dramatic moment. But this morning, we won’t be hearing more about the sanctions. Chhabria says:
I know the last couple of days have been — have had a lot of high drama. Unfortunately, I have one more item of drama related to a juror that I need to discuss with you at sidebar.
Chhabria amuses me sometimes. He runs his courtroom and thought process with a decent chunk of OCD. So many extraordinary things have transpired in this case that I can imagine are hard for him to stomach. The Roundup MDL is likely a career-defining set of trials for Chhabria, and yet unpredictable circumstances and a wide mix of courtroom personalities are muddying things up a bit. And now another juror is leaving.
In an internal guessing game, I hypothesize that it is the Spanish-speaking woman who has stared into the distance the last two days, taking nary a note, and clearly angry to be on the jury. Not a single member of the jury appears to be as animated nor as enthusiastic as the Johnson jurors were, so there actually are a number of potential candidates to consider. Chhabria and lawyers flip the switch on the noise cancellation static and briefly chat.
Chhabria walks back into chambers, presumably to dismiss the juror in question, and the lineup of jurors enter the courtroom for today’s session. “Nary a Note” does not emerge, and has been dismissed. We started with nine jurors, and now we have seven. There are two fewer people that the Plaintiff must convince that Roundup causes NHL.
With that, we delve into Dr. Christopher Portier’s video testimony. The combination of Dr. Ritz and Dr. Portier represent the crux of the General Causation argument. The screen for the audience is quite tiny, but the crowd is starting to thin so I can get a decent seat.
A team of attorneys flew down to Melbourne, Australia last week to film the direct and the cross examination. Portier is aglow on the screen, and one would never know all that he had suffered physically with his recent heart attack. Wisner and Portier have a solid rapport. It’s kind of cute to see purple-tied Brent ask questions of an animated Portier with an air of earnest curiosity, as though he is learning the details of the Roundup/glyphosate toxicological profile for the first time. I only notice this dynamic now because this is my second go-around on a Monsanto trial.
They’ve set up a podium and a table in a hotel conference room. In contrast to the other video depositions, we are able to see the attorney and witness on the screen at once. The setup gives it a less creepy, non-interrogation vibe. A bit more pod-casty.
TESTIMONY OF DR. CHRISTOPHER PORTIER
Much of the testimony is nearly identical to that of the Johnson trial. To review Portier’s beyond exceptional qualifications, please visit here. Remember, this is the guy that DESIGNED THE GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS for the EPA’s animal cancer studies.
Dr. Portier discusses the rat and mouse studies that so clearly prove that glyphosate can cause lymphomas in rodents. I am reminded during the testimony that humans and rodents share the vast majority of genes, as we shared a common ancestor 80 million years ago. I can’t imagine what that ancestor would have looked like – perhaps something like a pet of the least attractive ancient Greek God. Or perhaps a bit like Attorney Michael Cohen and similar. I also wonder if life will even be here in another 80 million years, as our food source, pollinators, and soil will be sparse at best and chemically decimated at worst.
Portier walks through the following charts that show the tumor incidence in a group of relevant rodent studies. The charts can be found here:
After completing the animal studies, we move onto mechanistic studies, to better understand the process of how Roundup could induce a cell to be cancerous. See the chart here.
After a short afternoon break, Chhabria enters the room and reads a carefully prepared statement regarding yesterday’s argument and potentially sexist comment that Wagstaff appeared “steely” when admonished on the content of her Opening Statement slides. I wonder if his misuse of words, which could potentially be severely career-damaging in the current climate, has occupied his thoughts overnight:
Before we bring in the jury, I want to make a quick statement to Ms. Wagstaff.
I was reflecting on the OSC hearing last night, and I wanted to clarify one thing. I gave a list of reasons why I thought your conduct was intentional, and one of those reasons was that you seemed to have prepared yourself in advance for - that you would get a hard time for violating the pretrial rulings. In explaining that, I used the word “steely,” and I want to make clear what I meant by that.
I was using steely as an adjective for steeling yourself, which is to make yourself ready for something difficult and unpleasant. My point was that I perceived no surprise on your part; and since lawyers typically seem surprised when they are accused of violating pretrial rulings, that was relevant to me on the issue of intent. But “steely” has another meaning as well, which is far more negative. And I want to assure you that that’s not the meaning that I was using nor was I suggesting anything about your general character traits.
So I know you continue to disagree with my ruling and my findings about intent, but I wanted to make that point very clear.
Wagstaff thanks Chhabria for the apology, and the jury enters to continue watching the Portier testimony.
PORTIER TESTIMONY CONT.
Portier continues his testimony with a walkthrough of the significance of the epidemiological studies that we have heard about from Ritz, with some added detail layered on. A new chart that summarizes the epidemiology and its relative significance is shown to the jury. The analysis is derived from the recent, exhaustive Zhang et al (2019) study.
Portier’s final minutes punctuate the argument that, without a doubt, Roundup can cause cancer. It will be hard for Monsanto to argue against the academic, governmental, and laboratory experience and wisdom of Dr. Portier. But we will see during the upcoming cross-examination.
What a strange day.
I’ll be back in court on Friday and Monday, but then will head to Natural Products Expo West to hear a bunch of these insightful speakers working on a range of relevant projects.
At least, I hope “insightful” because that plane ticket to Orange County was not cheap.
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