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Case: Carrol v. Interstate Brands Corp., No. 995728 (Calif. Sup. Ct., San Francisco) Outcome: An $11 million compensatory damages verdict in a racial discrimination trial against Interstate Brands Corp., the makers of Wonder Bread. Although Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollak reportedly stated that he would reduce the award because the statute of limitations had run on some of the earlier acts, the jury subsequently awarded $121 million in punitives. What was the key factor in winning at trial? My plaintiffs. My plaintiffs are 18 hardworking men who have been working for an aggregate of 260 years at that company. Their pain was very clear to the jury. The most compelling thing was their testimony — the jurors were horrified. For example, I asked one a question, “Isn’t it true that it became a joke that you couldn’t get promoted?” I asked Willie Wilkerson — he’s been there for 27 years, and he’d been attempting to become a foreman for 10 years — if in 1998 he was passed over by someone who’d been there for six months. I said to him, “Willie, how did it feel when Li Chin got your job and she’d only been there six months?” He looked down. Then he looked up at the ceiling, and his eyes were red, and he said, “Nobody should ever be treated like this.” The judge called a recess and everybody had a hard time dealing with it. No one could talk. That was either the third or fourth week, the middle to the last week of our case. . . . Also, the defense witnesses. When you are so blatant about racism, it’s difficult to lie. A lot of the defense witnesses got caught up in their lies. . . . Steve Robinson, from our office, did the declarations. In the punitive stage [we were able to point back to them, and that material] impeached them [Interstate's top executives]. I will always pull declarations out in the future and make a separate binder. What was the most difficult hurdle in the trial? Proving what is in somebody else’s mind — i.e., that “I’m not giving this to you because you’re black.” Discrimination law is no easy burden of proof. We did have direct evidence, but proving how they feel is never easy. . . . I know of no other case that isn’t a class action, where [someone] proved there is an existing policy that discriminates. What tip do you have generally for dealing with a jury? I was president of the Board of Supervisors, the legislative branch of the City of San Francisco, for nine years, and my whole attitude, and who I am, is relating to people. I sat in a chair in front of the jury and said, “It’s out of my hands. It’s in yours, and it’s a heavy burden.” It was more than eye contact. It was: “You are my champions; carry this ball. You be the Wonder Bread verdict that sticks in the throat of every director of every board of every corporation in this nation, when they even think about mistreating someone because of race, gender, nationality, disability.” What has been the best moment of your career? [W]hen the verdict came in at $12 million in compensatory damages. It was the defining time of my career, without a doubt, when I was hearing the plaintiffs’ names and the amount, and hearing yes to punitives. By the time I got to the fourth one out of 18, I couldn’t hold my pen or my tears back. . . . It will make a difference in the nation and the work force generally. What is the worst moment of your career? I have been kicked in the stomach by verdicts. I left public life in �97, and this is my eighth trial. A couple of those verdicts in between, when I knew I was right, and I knew I had the evidence and lost, [were the worst moments]. It was brutal.

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