In the second 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.
Before we get to the main case of the week, Bull has to help a rock musician prepare to testify in a copyright infringement case. Bull does this by having the man testify and fail in front of a succession of full mock juries. The two men stop to have a talk about what Bull sees in the man’s heart. The man is healed, and then Bull bellows that he “needs a fresh jury!”
From these first two episodes, we have learned that this is the main way that Bull operates. He has an unlimited budget to pay for scores of mock jurors to see variations of witness testimony and drafts of opening and closing statements, all while paying the hourly fee for every specialist on the fully staffed team. With this amount of staff billing, most clients would only be able to afford about 11 minutes of this work, but, hey, it works for Bull.
The Case of the Pilot Who is Also a Woman
In the main case featured in this episode, Bull’s team sees a report of a plane crash on the news. Bull immediately knows that he will be the jury consultant for the eventual legal case that develops from this tragedy. He is, of course, right, and months later meets the only survivor, the pilot, and her attorney as they emerge from the subway in front of the courthouse.
Despite the fact that they must have known they were meeting in this strange manner in which people must be picked out of a crowd, the pilot is amazed that Bull is somehow enlightened enough to know that even though she is a woman, she is also the pilot, as if this were an after-school special, circa 1973.
As in the previous episode, it is once again unclear who Bull’s client is (the airline or an insurance company paying for the pilot’s defense?), but it is not this attorney who is unhappy that Bull is on the case. Bull later has the attorney fired and replaces him with a member of Bull’s consulting team, because Bull seems to have unlimited authority over the case. Bull’s team fans out across the city to investigate the case facts, like all jury consultants do.
The trial begins with an oddly run jury selection procedure, in which the judge states that the jury has been sworn in, so that voir dire can start. The attorney selects the jury by asking a few questions and then yelling out to the judge that the defense is fine with this or that juror. Meanwhile, Cable, Bull’s computer whiz, hacks into a juror’s company’s human resources department to read files about her. Presumably, a later episode will be called U.S. v. Cable, et al.
Bull’s team selects a shadow juror and demonstrates that one juror is matched to a shadow juror because both like sudoku and model railroads. This matching and recruiting is done quickly due to … wait for it … an algorithm. The shadow jurors wear biometric watches, presumably so Cable can do something illegal on a molecular level.
Bull realizes that jurors will not like the pilot due to implicit gender bias, but then the episode immediately devolves into a soap opera of wives and mistresses fighting and discussions of whether the co-pilot may have crashed the plane because he was distracted by his mistress being on the plane (in seat 8D). The message is that we all have implicit gender bias, because women sure are difficult for men, am I right?
Bull then has a full flight simulator programmed to match the crash, so that he, a psychologist, can seemingly re-traumatize the pilot by having her relive the horrifying incident in which she killed 62 people. Perhaps next week Bull will shoot live rounds at a witness, because here she and Bull have an epiphany: she actually saved lives on the ground by crashing in this manner.
Because of this, they present an animation to the jury that looks an awful lot like a plane on a suicide mission. In closing, the attorney is allowed to give the jury a very “Free To Be You And Me” lesson on gender bias, including being allowed to poll the jury on their gender attitudes.
Bull wins both the pilot and musician cases, and has a party in which his mock judge bench opens up to be a full bar.
Is That What Jury Consulting is Like?
So is it accurate or … what’s the word I’m looking for?
At its essence, Bull is telling the world what actual jury consulting is like, but multiplied to a scale that distorts it. At its core, jury consulting is based on the idea that one can test elements of cases before groups of people that broadly match the jury pool. Jury consultants routinely test trial themes, arguments and witnesses before groups of mock jurors. We just do not have mock jurors on tap all day and night.
Also, we rarely attempt to psychologically damage our clients.
The show and this column return in two weeks.