فصل 14

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فصل 14

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Chapter fourteen

The Verdict

In the jury room, they were ready to do what they’d been dreaming about all month. They took their places and stared at the empty seat at the end of the table, the one that Herman had occupied.

“Guess we need a new foreman,” said Jerry.

“And I think it should be Nicholas,” Millie added quickly. There wasn’t any doubt about who the new foreman would be. No one else wanted the job, and Nicholas seemed to know as much about the trial as the lawyers.

Nicholas started. “Judge Harkin wants us to consider all the evidence, including the reports, before we start voting,” he said.

“I’m ready to vote now,” said Lonnie Shaver.

“Not so fast,” said Nicholas. “This is a very complicated case and it would be wrong to rush things.”

“We’re not going to read all that stuff are we?” asked Sylvia.

“I have an idea,” said Nicholas. “We’ll each take a report, read it fast, and then make a summary for everyone else.”

They started work.


Marlee’s flight from Biloxi to George Town, Grand Cayman, took ninety minutes. She went through customs with a new passport which showed her to be Lane MacRoland, a Canadian. She took a taxi to the Royal Swiss Trust bank. The tropical air was warm, but Marlee hardly noticed.

She was greeted by a receptionist and within minutes had met a young man named Marcus. They’d spoken many times on the phone. The money had arrived, he told her. In his office, a secretary bought coffee and Marlee ordered a sandwich.

Pynex shares were still strong when Marlee made her first trade. She sold 50,000 shares in Pynex at seventy-nine dollars, using a system which was popular with experienced investors. If the price of shares was going to fall, trading rules allowed them to be sold first at the higher price, then purchased later at the lower one. With ten million dollars in cash, Marlee would be allowed to sell approximately twenty million dollars’ worth of shares. Later, she’d buy them back, and if their price had fallen, she’d make a profit on the difference in price.

Marcus confirmed the trade, and Marlee then sold shares in two other Big Four companies, and then more in Pynex. She paused and instructed Marcus to watch Pynex closely. She’d just sold 110,000 shares, and was worried about the effect on Wall Street.

“I think it’s safe now,” said Marcus, who’d been watching the share price closely for two weeks.

“Sell 50,000 more,” she said, without hesitation. She was very calm.

Marcus’s heart missed a beat, then he completed the trade. “That’s approximately twenty-two million dollars, Ms. MacRoland. I think we should stop. More sales will need approval from my superior. One question. When do you anticipate movement on these shares?”

“Tomorrow, early. If you want your other clients to think you’re really smart, then you should suggest that they follow my example.”

Marcus sent for a company car to take Marlee to her hotel.


Marlee’s present seemed under control, but her past was being discovered. At the University of Missouri, records were found of a Dr. Evelyn Y. Brant. She’d died in 1987, age fifty-six, and left everything to her daughter, Gabrielle, age twenty-one. Gabrielle had received nearly $200,000. On the death certificate it stated that Dr. Brant had died of lung cancer.

By the time Fitch was told this, they knew more. Dr. Brants husband, Dr. Peter Brant, had died in 1981 at the age of fifty-two, leaving everything to his dear wife Evelyn and his daughter, Gabrielle. He’d also died of lung cancer.

Fitch took the telephone call from Swanson alone, with the door locked. At first, he was too shocked to react. Both of Marlee’s parents had died of lung cancer! He wrote it down on a yellow pad as if he could analyze it, as if he could somehow make it fit in with her promise to deliver a verdict.

He closed his eyes and rubbed his head. He must stay calm. There was nothing he could do to stop the jury’s discussions. They were in there, with deputies by the door. Fitch made a list of possible things he could do, all of which would be dangerous, illegal, and would fail.

He slowly rose to his feet, and took the glass lamp in both hands. Konrad and Pang were standing outside and heard a crash as the lamp hit the wall. Fitch shouted something about “the money,” then the desk hit the wall.

“Find the girl!” he screamed. “Find the girl!”


After the period of forced concentration, Nicholas decided that some debate was needed. He started by summarizing a report on the state of Jacob Wood’s lungs. His audience was bored.

“I have an idea,” Rikki Coleman said. “Let’s see if we can all agree that cigarettes cause lung cancer.”

“Fine with me,” said Nicholas. “Raise your hands if you believe that cigarettes cause lung cancer.” Twelve hands went up in the air.

“Who thinks nicotine is addictive?” Another yes vote.

“Let’s keep united, folks,” Nicholas said. “It’s really important that we walk out of here voting the same way.” Most of the jurors had heard him say this before. The legal reasons weren’t clear, but they believed him anyway. They continued to work through the reports. They left the room to smoke and to stretch. Lou Dell and two deputies guarded the door.

After another juror had summarized a report on the contents of cigarette smoke, Lonnie Shaver spoke.

“I thought we’d decided that cigarette smoke was harmful.” He looked at Nicholas. “I say we get on with the voting. I’ll go first.” He took a deep breath and everyone turned to watch him. “My position is easy. I believe cigarettes kill. That’s why I leave them alone. Nobody can force you to smoke, but if you do, you’ll suffer the consequences. Don’t smoke for thirty years, and then expect me to make you rich… These crazy lawsuits need to be stopped.”

“Do you know when I started smoking?” said Angel Weese. “I remember the exact day. I was thirteen, and I saw this really good-looking guy, all smiles, perfect teeth, with a beautiful girl on his arm, and a cigarette in one hand. ‘What great fun,’ I thought. ‘There’s the good life.’ So I went home, got my money, and bought a pack of cigarettes. Don’t try and tell me anyone can give up. I’m addicted.”

Lonnie said nothing. The arguments continued, then the jury returned to their reading. At five o’clock, Judge Harkin called them back. “You’ve had the case for five hours. I’d like to know if you’re making progress.”

Nicholas stood up. “I think so, Your Honor. We’re determined to finish and have a verdict sometime tonight.”

“Wonderful. Thank you. Dinner is on the way. I’ll be in my chambers if you need me.”


Dinner was over at six-thirty, and the jury agreed to vote.

“Are you willing to hold Pynex responsible for the death of Jacob Wood?” asked Nicholas. Four jurors voted yes, four no, the rest weren’t sure.

“I think it’s time for you to say what you think,” Lonnie said to Nicholas.

“OK,” he said. He’d practiced this speech, and spoke very persuasively. “I’m certain that cigarettes are dangerous - they kill 400,000 people a year and they are full of nicotine. I think cigarettes killed Jacob Wood and I am also certain that tobacco companies lie and cheat and do everything in their power to persuade kids to smoke. They are selfish and greedy and should be punished.”

Rikki Coleman and Millie Dupree felt like clapping.

“You want punitive damages?” asked Jerry.

“The verdict means nothing if it’s not significant. It has to be huge.”

They went round the table again - seven for the plaintiff, three for the defense.

“How much money do you have in mind for Celeste Wood?” asked Rikki.

“A billion dollars.” Mouths fell open.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Lonnie. At that moment, most of the other jurors agreed. The discussions continued. Finally, they agreed ten votes to two that Celeste Wood should receive two million dollars in actual damages. After the mention of a billion dollars, two million seemed a very small amount. Again, they voted ten to two for punitive damages. “Any idea of how much?” asked Nicholas.

“I have an idea,” said Jerry “Get everyone to write down their amounts on a piece of paper, then add them up and divide by ten. That way we’ll see what the average is.”

The jurors quickly wrote their numbers on pieces of paper. Nicholas slowly unfolded each piece of paper and called the numbers out to Millie, who wrote them down. One billion, one million, fifty million, ten million, one billion, one million, five million, five hundred million, one billion, and two million.

Millie did the math. “The average is three hundred fifty-six million, nine hundred thousand.”

Lonnie jumped to his feet. “You’re crazy,” he said and left the room, banging the door behind him.

Another juror looked shocked. “I can’t do this. I’m retired, OK. I have enough money, but I can’t understand these figures.”

“These numbers are real,” Nicholas said, “and the company is very rich. It has eight hundred million in cash. We’ve got to think big, or they won’t take any notice.”

“What will happen to the tobacco industry if we bring back a big verdict like this?” asked Angel.

“There’ll be a lot of action. The industry will have to examine their advertising plans again. They’ll go to the government and demand special laws, but I suspect they’ll get less and less help. The industry will never be the same,” Nicholas answered. “We need to decide on an amount, folks, if we want to go home.”

“I have an idea,” said Jerry. “Let’s take it up to four hundred million, half their cash.”

“Count the votes,” said Nicholas. Nine hands went up. He filled in the verdict form and made everyone sign it. Lonnie returned.

“We’ve come to a verdict, Lonnie.”

“What a surprise. How much?”

“Two million dollars, and four hundred million dollars. Care to join us?”

“Hell, no,” answered Lonnie.

Nicholas walked to the door and asked Lou Dell to inform Judge Harkin that his jury was ready.

While they waited, Lonnie whispered to Nicholas, “Is there any way I can say that I didn’t agree?” He was more nervous than angry.

“Sure, don’t worry. The Judge will ask each one if this is our verdict. When he asks you, make sure everyone knows you don’t agree with it.”

“Thanks.”

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