Hollywood hijacked reality in this week’s episode of “Bull.”
Let’s shake things up this week and play a game of “Truth or Bull.” But first, a quick synopsis. If you watch the show, you may want to skip this column as the entire piece will be a ginormous spoiler.
This week’s episode, “Separation,” had two distinct story lines. The first centered around a rich German, Geoffrey Schreiber, who was being sued by a museum for refusing to hand over a $10 million painting. Turns out the will and testament of his recently deceased ex-wife stipulated that her entire art collection should be given to the museum upon her death.
Mr. Schreiber claimed she recently gifted him the painting as a symbol of her steadfast love and that the painting was rightfully his. Dr. Bull single handedly tries to structure a settlement deal with the museum, which they decline. Of course, there’s a trial (talk about a rocket docket) and once again, the jury of “gray thinkers” (i.e. those who don’t hold black-and-white views and allow for circumstances to dictate whether an action is moral or ethical) found in favor of Bull’s client, who quickly heads back to Germany with the painting.
The second plot tapped into a hot social topic: immigration. Danny—Bull’s ex-FBI-turned-private-investigator—finds herself being questioned by an ICE officer because her love interest, Gabriel, has been living in the United States illegally for years. Gabriel is detained and receives a procedural hearing. Dr. Bull woodsheds Danny before her testimony, and despite attempts to convince the judge otherwise, Gabriel is ultimately ordered to return to his home country. Dr. Bull magically convinces the judge to give him “permission” to privately escort Gabriel to the airport, where ICE will be waiting.
In the final scene, a car pulls up to a private jet and we immediately surmise that Dr. Bull is up to something. Gabriel boards the plane, is greeted by Mr. Schreiber, and is essentially promised political asylum when they land in Frankfurt. I guess viewers are supposed to believe they all lived happily ever after.
Let’s Get Real
So, are you ready to play “Truth or Bull?” I’m fairly certain that all of you will be winners.
Truth or Bull: Jury consultants make a habit of negotiating settlement terms directly with opposing counsel.
While jury consultants may have candid (and privileged) discussions with the trial team about persuasive narratives or key talking points for potential settlement discussions, you’re never going to see a real-world jury consultant having a tête-à-tête with opposing counsel or trying to horse-trade terms. Or, you shouldn’t.
Truth or Bull: Jury consultants want to discover how potential jurors view written agreements.
This is especially true in matters that focus on the meaning, interpretation or reasonableness of a document, policy or criminal code. If your client’s position is more compelling to gray thinkers and those who believe the written word is not one-sized-fits-all, it’s important to identify jurors who cannot and will not venture outside the black-and-white language of the agreement.
Truth or Bull: Jury consultants woodshed witnesses.
Answer: Truth (mostly).
Jury consultants (and attorneys) are allowed to prepare witnesses for testimony; what they cannot do is promote false testimony or instruct the witness what to say. In one scene, Danny expresses her anger and disdain toward the immigration judge and shares her desire to school the judge on the negative impact of a decision to deport. Dr. Bull, however, points out the risk in adopting such a stance and instead encourages her to change the narrative from pointing out why the judge is wrong to empowering him to do what is right. This is what jury consultants do. We help witnesses (and counsel) communicate effectively, and to frame testimony in a manner that will most likely resonate with the decision-maker(s). Danny testified truthfully, but she left her attack-dog approach behind; with Bull’s encouragement, she shifted her focus to promoting the positives rather than attacking the negatives.
Truth or Bull: It’s OK for a jury consultant to lie to an officer of the court.
Answer: A big load of Bull.
It’s never ethical for anyone—jury consultant, counsel, or custodian—to lie to the court. And let’s be real: Bull created a doozy of a lie by promising the immigration judge that he would deliver the soon-to-be-deported Garcia to the airport. Clearly, he had no intention of doing so since he orchestrated a denouement that could only happen in Hollywood: sneaking Gabriel out of the country on a private jet.
If such shenanigans had occurred in the real world, all of these folks would be packing some shower shoes and toothbrushes and gearing up for an extended getaway behind bars.
As usual, “Bull” provides some excellent real-world lessons for litigators alongside some laughable whoppers that if you decide to try out in a real court of law, please alert me first. I’ll bring my peers and some popcorn. It’ll be the war story of a lifetime.
Kacy Miller, president of CourtroomLogic Consulting LLC, will provide weekly reviews of new episodes of CBS’ “Bull,” about an elite trial consulting firm. Miller began her career as a litigation consultant working alongside Dr. Phil McGraw, the inspiration for “Bull.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.