A rather long and complicated story from John Grisham. Long and complicated not in the sense of the legal issues or story line, but about the 12 + 3 jurors, with their names and background.
In this civil case, the plaintiff Celeste Wood, the widow of Jacob Wood, sued the tobacco companies for killing her husband. The defendant was accused of manufacturing cigarettes which were addictive and caused lung cancer. This was not the first case of its kind, but certainly became a precedent with its verdict for the plaintiff, giving actual damages plus a huge sum of punitive damages. This would induce a series of lawsuit against the tobacco companies. The difference of this case with others was the juror Nicholas Easter, and his partner Marlee hiding behind.
The interesting parts of the book were about the extensive study (or unethical investigation) of the potential jurors, and the under-table, black side of both teams of lawyers. The leader of “the Fund” formed by the tobacco companies was Rankin Fitch. He employed secret investigators and fake FBI agents to dig into the privacy of each juror, and by all means exerted undue pressure on them to control their vote. The runner for the plaintiff lawyer also used monetary method to influence the voting of juror.
Other than these outside courtroom interferences, Nicholas made himself into the jury and thereby carried out his plan to directly impact the colleagues. He on one side gained trust from the Judge and on the other side dumped those problematic jurors who were uncontrollable. Marlee did the secret dealing with Fitch. She managed to hide her past from him and convinced him that Nicholas had the power to control the verdict.
Finally, Fitch’s staff learnt that the parents of Marlee were actually died of lung cancer, but it was already too late because the money had been wired for the purchase of a false verdict and the jury had also reached a runaway one. (runaway is not run away; it means out of control...)
If all have been true, the power behind the justice system is so great that it could result in any desired outcome. The rich would most likely buy a favorable verdict. But I have doubt as to how far the money can go and how powerful those guys could be without being caught. In particular, I wonder how Marlee can manage to hide her real identify from the world but at the same time possesses strong link to the others such as bankers and investigators?
“From a lawyer's point of view, the receiving of a verdict approaches an art form. One cannot flinch or twitch. One cannot look around for either solace or jubilation. One cannot grab one's client to celebrate or to comfort. One must sit perfectly still, frown hard at a legal pad upon which one is writing, and act as though one knew precisely what the verdict would be.”...Continua
This is my second book by John Grisham and this is certainly better than the other book i read "the appeal". This book serves as a nice introduction of the jury system in US and more importantly, how the system can be abused by the plaintiff side, defence side and even among the jurors. Research, stalking, playing tricks, buying verdicts... the possibilities are limitless.
Jurors are easy to manipulate yet their power in a trial is incredibly important. It really strikes me when the jury awarded an absurd number of damages to the plaintiff. They are talking about millions as if thousands. They arrive to the sum of figures without scientific calculation.
Both this book and "the appeal" is about Grisham's criticism of US legal system. It is interesting to note that "the appeal" may be the continuation of "the runaway jury". Even the plaintiff win in first trial, can they really beat corporate giants in the appeals.
Despite the overwhelming problems, there is no obvious alternative to jury system and this is the even sadder truth....Continua
This was a forced read in my secondary 4 English class.
The world of courts and lawyers really bores me and I can hardly understand what is fascinating about it. I like the fighting of the main characters against the cigarette company though. I thought it was noble. The end was good too.
I guess it was a good book for a courtroom kind-of-suspense drama but the subject doesn't interest me anyway....Continua
Another can't miss Grisham. A movie was made out of this one.