In the twelveth edition of his weekly column in Law360, DOAR’s real-life New York City Jury Consultant and Psychologist reviews the fictional NYC Jury Consultant/Psychologist on the television series “Bull,” focusing on what litigation is really like in the trenches.
In this episode, with a story credited to Dr. Phil himself, a woman blows up a bomb and takes hostages in order to get jury consulting services. I should be flattered.
The Case of the Easily Convinced Bomber
This episode is so outlandish that it may be a “Mulholland Drive”-esque last fantasy of what might have been for Dr. Phil if he were not shot and bleeding out in a hostage event. Or maybe that was me — is it getting cold in here?
The only reasonable explanation for this episode is that Dr. Phil had feverish dreams after a heavy meal before bedtime. The next morning, while his hands glided over his soapy skin in the shower, he had an epiphany and texted his assistant the storyline of this show that featured the moral that jury consulting helps the dispossessed in our society. Either that or — has anyone checked on Dr. Phil lately?
To describe this story as nonsensical is to elevate it to being within a world that still features logic and reason. In this episode. a woman signs up to be a mock juror and attends a mock trial at Bull’s TAC headquarters. She sets off a bomb in the bathroom, which causes major destruction of the building so that the doors to the mock trial area are blocked, yet no one is injured or even particularly perturbed.
She pulls out a plastic 3D-printed gun and makes her demands. She just wants Bull to help with her jailed husband’s case, and she is angry at Danny, who was an FBI confidential informant at the time and testified against her husband. Bull confidently but atrociously uses his psychological skills on the woman, telling her to relax and calm down, a technique that has failed to calm humans since OG first tried it on his mate during a woolly mammoth attack.
Bull then moves on to another hideous psychological technique in which he dares the woman to shoot. In my own experience as a clinical psychologist, I have found that many people who have lived to tell the tale of getting shot tell just this type of story. When asked how he got shot in the head, one man told me a story that ended with “so then I go, you wouldn’t have the guts to shoot me!” Another woman explained to me that she had been arrested because she held a gun and threatened to shoot a man in the buttocks, to which he responded by pulling down his pants and saying “well, here it is!” You generally do not get to try this gambit more than once, so I do not admire Bull’s much boasted about clinical skills.
Bull gets the woman to hand over the gun, and while they all wait for an hour for the police to unblock the door, they go ahead and have an immediate mock trial about the woman’s husband’s case. Narrowly escaped death? Back to work!
Cable very easily, and for no discernable reason, hacks into the live camera feed from the Rikers Island bus holding the husband. They also get the courts to send over transcripts of the original trial and are up and running a mock trial quickly with no preparation. Bull does a very hard cross-examination of his employee, Danny, regarding her previous drug use on the job and job performance. He says it is for her own good. She does not enjoy it.
Despite the fact that the mock jurors would not generally be seen as unbiased after the woman tried to kill them all within the hour, they are convinced, and decide that the husband is not guilty. Then Bull does a “what if I had told you this?” version of a cross-examination of Danny, and the hostage-taking wife is suddenly 100 percent convinced that her husband is actually guilty. Oh, well! Sorry for the inconvenience.
Then Bull gives some kind of impassioned speech about the greatness of mock trials and changes in trial strategy. I should be happy, but why do I feel so cold?
Is That What Jury Consulting is Like?
Yeah, we’re not even going to do this part this week.
Cold . . . so cold . . .