TRIAL CONSULTING IS BACK IN THE PUBLIC’S EYE
Trial consultants have had a few minutes of fame in our profession’s relatively young history. The O.J. Simpson trial put trial consultants on the public’s radar. Among the media coverage of race, money, and fame, was the role of the jury consultants on both sides. Many Americans learned for the first time that this job even exists. If that didn’t do it, John Grisham’s novel and subsequent movie, The Runaway Jury, certainly provided the public with a reference for what we do. For a long time, explanations about my job were met with that light-bulb understanding – “Oh like that movie?!” Well, no not exactly. But who am I to mar the image of our glamorous, high-tech, behind-the-scenes job?
Now over a decade later, a new CBS series, Bull, may just give trial consultants a permanent place on the map. At this point, I can only speculate that the drama will portray our role as (in)accurately as any other profession-based drama. Ask any doctor if the medicine, patients, and love affairs inside Seattle’s Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital are anything like their day-to-day experience. And just imagine if every trial-team had a Kalinda Sharma (of The Good Wife) to burst into the courtroom with smoking-gun evidence obtained just in time to win the case in closing arguments. The fact is, reality does not make good prime-time drama. We’re all keenly aware of that. So, I’m not going to holler “bull” on the anticipated misrepresentations this new show is likely to make. Besides, Ken Broda-Bahm does an excellent job of this in his recent blog post to the Persuasive Litigator.
I do anticipate, however, that after several episodes have aired I’ll have more to add on this topic. For example, will the portrayal of what we do lead to a misperception among jurors that we are prying into their lives? Will it increase juror distrust that we are “gaming the system”? Hopefully American viewers are sophisticated enough to separate hype from fact. I look forward to the conversation.
Until then, I’ll just bask in the glory that crime scene investigators have enjoyed since CSI and all of its spin-offs defined how forensic analysts can coordinate DNA and GPS data within minutes on a hand-held device. Why would I want to shatter your illusions of what I really do? I mean, I find my job fascinating. I love what I do, but the dramatized version is so much better. So, next time the guy sitting next to me on the plane concludes that my job “is just like Dr. Bull,” I’ll probably smile and say, “Exactly.”