The case got settled out of court today - the whole proceedings was a very good experience. Everything you've seen in Hollywood(Law and Order, Matlock, John Grisham, etc) is almost exactly what you see in real life courtroom(at least what I witnessed for 2 days). Hollywood is obviously fiction, but they've done a wonderful job, imho, of portraying the judicial system(one of the very few accolades they deserve imho).
We got to talk to all the attorneys afterwards-they say how in between breaks of hearings, testimonies in the courtroom, they're always reevaluating/negotiating evidence and deals. Yes - everything you've seen in Law and Order like all the times McCoy and the prosecution team giving 10-15 year manslaughter deals to even the bloodiest of murderers is true, why? Because there is alot of time and money costs involved not only to the state, but to both lawyer teams as well, which is why they are doing their best to negotiate daily. If they have to give it to the hands of the jury at the end of the day, then so be it, but they would prefer to put out the fire like you see in Hollywood productions 9/10 times.
For example, remember the case of the boy in NC who wanted to use the Zoloft-made-me-crazy defense when he killed his parents? He had no chance, however, the state, if you remember offered him a deal of a lifetime(TWO years only) that he refused to take, but gambled with the hands of the jury and lost by getting 30 years instead. Again, another case of the state and the courtrooms thinking it would be best to put out this fire quickly and don't want to ring up the costs. And for that matter too, corporations in particular drug companies get a very bad rap, so even though the defense had no chance, the drug company that made Zoloft got smeared a good one throughout the proceedings.(I'm not defending drug companies, I too am not a fan of them, but if I were a head of one of these companies, I would rather fly under the radar too)
This case involved an oil and gas company causing damage to a property by building an oil pipeline near it. It wasn't that they built the pipeline, but they used alot of materials they had no business using that caused alot of damage to the property. So it wasn't so much that the oil and gas company was trying to prove themselves innocent, but it was HOW MUCH IN DAMAGES they owed. The oil and gas co lawyers wanted to prove that the FMV of all the damages et al didn't amount to nearly as much as what the landowner's appraisers came up with. We only heard one day of proceedings yesterday before they settled today, but apparently, what clinched it for the landowner was the deposition of the senior project manager for the oil and gas company - I and the rest of the jury couldn't believe our ears, this man was a liar, and the lawyer questioning him got him to stumble MANY times. Seriously, this man was wicked. Not only he didn't comply with the state laws, but he didn't even comply with his OWN rules with the contract and the oil and gas company. He didn't confer with the landowner at all in terms of what materials he wanted to use when the contract stated so many times otherwise, the whole 9 yards.
And the oil and gas company lawyers sounded pretty desperate too - the first witness called by the landowner's lawyers, an engineer, gave a very, very detailed account of what should have happened, all the laws that should have been complied with, how this and that should have been done this way to avoid any of these damages,the whole 9 yards. He was very thorough and very honest. When it came time to cross-examine him, the only tactic the defense came up with was just the discredit him *just a LITTLE bit*. For example, they asked him, "Are you an appraiser?" - obviously, they wanted to plant seeds so that when all is said and done, the damages $ won't be as high. I mean this was a nonsense question to begin with, because the whole point of this testimony was from an engineer's facts over what really should have and shouldn't have been done. He gave a very convincing and detailed account that is impossible to refute.
This is no different from let's say Scott Petersen's lawyers throwing out nonsense questions toward Amber Frye to try to discret her character, which had absolutely nothing to do with the entire case. Or for that matter OJ's lawyers making a convincing case how the DNA was not-preserved-100%-right-because-99.99%-only-preserved-right-will-taint-the-whole-thing. Good cross-examiners, when their backs against the wall, are very good at throwing CONFUSION. Confusion...sound familiar? God is not the author of confusion, right?
Overall, the tricky part about this case wasn't so much all the damages the oil and gas company caused to this landowner's property, but one of the facts was that the landowner owned a million dollar property, and it would be hard to convince a jury to award him another $800K for all these damages(even though the oil company was lying, cheating, and caused all sorts of damages you can poke holes through) when he already is pretty wealthy himself.
Ultimately, yes, for anyone that served/will serve in the future on juries, just remember 90% of it comes right out of a Hollywood production. However - what I learned is that there are ALOT of cost/benefit to weigh in with all parties-the state, the plaintiff, he defendent, you name it. No wonder why the prosecution in the OJ case offered him 10 years manslaughter before the whole brew-ha-ha started. They knew the whole charade would blow up into a circus and waste lots of California residents' hard-earned tax $$, while some of the other cases that needed to be brought to justice got little to no attention. Ditto the NC case where the Zoloft boy used it as a defense - even that turned into a circus when I'm sure that NC country DA's office had bigger fish to fry with other cases.
I kinda figured this thing would get settled after that senior project manager for the oil and gas co got exposed big time-even the oil and gas company lawyers tried to keep their questioning and words fewer than I would expect. Overall - very good experience doing so for the first time. When we're not in the courtroom, there was always 2-3 people while we're waiting in the jury room to keep everyone happy and laughing with conversation that was fun to listen to. One jury member works in a Christian ministry, and said how he'll be going to Africa late next week for 10 days(if this case had gotten into our hands, it would have been on Tues anyways), so it was nice to have a Christian ministry guy among us.
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