As if the doomed Ford trial didn’t provide drama enough, Gwinnett County’s courthouse also moonlighted Friday as a movie set.
As lawyers arrived to hear the fate of the Ford case, which ended in a mistrial Friday morning after three weeks of trial, they had to share elevators with carts, cords, camera equipment and the crew for a Mark Wahlberg feature film titled “Instant Family.”
The movie activity became entertainment for those waiting to head into Gwinnett County State Court Judge Shawn Bratton’s third-floor courtroom. The atrium offered a perfect view of the movie set below on the second floor. Tiny tables for kids were set up in the lobby for what appeared to be a day care scene. The window next to Bratton’s courtroom created the strange impression of storming on a sunny day, thanks to a little Hollywood magic: A crew member was on the roof with a water hose. Below the window on the street level was a back door to be used for filming. The family’s courthouse exit scene apparently called for rain, and Lawrenceville’s spring weather was uncooperatively pleasant.
The movie is about a couple who decide to start a family and adopt through the foster care system, only to find themselves raising three wild kids who have no interest in being parented, according to publicity about the film.
Meanwhile, real-life drama unfolded on the third floor. “I have determined that, in the interest of justice, this case can no longer proceed,” the real judge said Friday in the courtroom. Bratton dismissed his jury after three weeks of lawyers fighting and finally saying their cases had been irreparably harmed by the other side. As he said his thanks and farewell, the judge teased to the movie.
“I won’t tell you who,” Bratton said, but “you might see a celebrity.”
In addition to Wahlberg, the movie also stars Rose Byrne and Octavia Spencer.
After hearing about the trial, a crew member said, “What you’re doing here is a lot more exciting.”