Outtakes and Vagabonds: I was once on a jury for a case that settled

I, too, was disappointed in Dominion’s settlement with Fox, most likely because I had wild expectations that it’d mean the End of Fox. Eventually.

But pretty quickly I exited the realm of alternative reality and understood the settlement meant the case would never get to the Supreme Court and, thus, could not put Sullivan in danger. So overall, this is a very good thing. And then I read about all the lawsuits yet to go to trial against Fox, primarily Smartmatic’s.

So okay. Fox, like Trump, will be litigated against and prosecuted sort of forever. Individual Fox talking heads should also be vulnerable, I’d think, or at the least very worried. Moreover, Dominion’s success here should give courage to anyone and any entity defamed by Fox (I don’t watch it but I’d guess defamation is on the daily TV schedule). Even the “little guys” who would otherwise not be able to afford lawsuits will find, I’m sure, lawyers to take up their causes.

Fox, itself a cliché, is a wounded animal, to apply both a cliché and a pun. (Do I get an award for this? Probably, except I’d have to spend the rest of my life searching for the organization which would give it to me.)

Anyway, I have a bit of experience in understanding how and why cases settle with apparent suddenness the first day or so of trial. I can thank an eloquent New York State Court judge for the compassionate explanation.

Many decades ago, I was chosen as a juror for a civil trial against the New York City Housing Authority and what was then their own police division (which was merged into NYPD in the mid-1990s). The plaintiff was a resident of one of the Manhattan NYCHA developments.

He, a working man, came home one night and was treated abusively by one or more NYCHA cops. Really abusively and with racist language. The plaintiff took the stand immediately after the trial began and, guided by his lawyer’s questions, told his story. He was a small, slender, well-dressed man with dark skin and a sweet face. As he described the humiliating assault quietly, with remarkable dignity and composure, tears ran down his face. What the cops had done to him was awful; although I remember it clearly I’m not capable of describing it here.

After the man’s direct testimony, the trial was adjourned and we jurors returned to the jury room. Some time passed, but not more than an hour. Then our judge came into our room. He’d removed his robe so he looked more or less like us. The case had settled, he told us, but he wanted us all to understand that we hadn’t wasted our time; the case settled because of us.

The plaintiff, the judge said, had been an unusually sympathetic witness — and the way the judge said this suggested how stirred the judge himself had been. And it was clear to everyone in the courtroom how moved and compassionate we the jurors were.

While we were focused on the plaintiff, the defendants’ lawyers had been watching us, watching our faces, our reactions. I believe at least one person on our jury had teared up. The defendants’ lawyers knew then they had no chance of winning.

The judge was wonderful. Warm and articulate, he took his time effectively to elevate us as jurors into a powerful force for justice, even before we were given the case for deliberation.

After I got over my pique about the Dominion case, I thought of our plaintiff, and our compassion for him. And I thought about Fox’s lawyers looking at the jury in Delaware, watching their faces, interpreting their characters and opinions during the voir dire, and explaining to their client why he wasn’t going to win this case.



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