Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why juries make lawyers nervous

I am reading Good Morning Silicon Valley when I run across She should be glad there wasn’t an option for “truly, utterly, incredibly liable”. I missed the news about a music downloading trial in Duluth which this post covered.

According to Hegg (who, by the way, says he has never been on the Internet), at least two of the jurors wanted to award the maximum damages of $150,000 for each of the 24 songs at issue, while one adamantly held out for the minimum, $750 per. In the end, they settled (though Hegg didn’t explain exactly how) on damages of $9,250 per song, a total of $222,000. “That is a compromise, yes,” said Hegg. “We wanted to send a message that you don’t do this, that you have been warned.” The warning might not have been so stern if the jurors hadn’t felt so insulted. “She should have settled out of court for a few thousand dollars,” Hegg said. “She lied. There was no defense. Her defense sucked. … I think she thought a jury from Duluth would be naïve. We’re not that stupid up here. I don’t know what the (dickens) she was thinking, to tell you the truth."

I emphasized the second sentence above because right there is the thing that makes lawyers squirm with a jury trial. Lawyers prepare jury instructions (so do the judges), lawyers will even argue over jury instructions, and all for the purpose of giving jury's a framework to work within. In the end, juries can do a lot.