Woburn Essay, Research Paper
The Woburn trial was an incredibly complex case involving thirty-three plaintiffs, two defendants, a mountain of conflicting hydro-geological and medical testimony regarding causation, and multiple claims including negligence, nuisance and emotional distress. That is why, in my professional opinion, Judge Skinner changed the complete outcome of the trial with his actions, concerning both the procedure of the trial, and his own personal interactions with myself. I believe that his actions should be reviewed, as it gave an unfair advantage to the defendants, assisting them in their goals in dulling my legal strategy. Given the complexity of the case, Judge Skinner’s decision to divide the trial into separate parts was understandable. However, by polyfurcating the issues posed to the jury, the court produced more confusion than it prevented, for these jurors were asked to answer very limited, specific questions without understanding the series of events which led to these claims. Moreover, splitting the case into progressively smaller elements betrayed a paternalistic and condescending attitude towards jurors that was, in the Woburn case, unjustified.
While it is true that some of this uncertainty was the result of poorly worded interrogatories, their confusion was also attributable to the fact that when deciding the issue of causation, the jury was not allowed to hear evidence about the wider context of well contamination. Consequently, vital facts were kept from the jury that would have helped them understand the chronology of events being tried in the courtroom. For instance, evidence of when the plaintiffs first exhibited symptoms of illness would have given the jurors an idea of when the contaminants may have first reached Wells G and H and would also have given the jurors a more complete picture of what exactly was being contested by the parties. While Judge Skinner was justifiably concerned that the plaintiffs would use a circular argument to prove the defendants’ well contamination caused the exposure to TCE, keeping such contextual information from the jury in the end hindered it in its task of arriving at the most truthful and accurate resolution of the facts in question.
Judge Skinner believed that separating the issues in the Woburn case would force rational decision-making on the jury while avoiding a decision made solely on the basis of emotion or sympathy. Such a view, though, is paternalistic and is premised on a fear of juries, and by implication would not allow a jury to hear any type of ambiguous or potentially difficult information during the course of a trial. Information concerning the jury’s decision-making process in the Woburn case paints a picture of a group of people who took their task very seriously, and who were able to follow and assess the merits of complicated scientific testimony. There is no reason to believe that testimony regarding the leukemia victims would turn this group of sober-minded individuals into avenging angels who would consider no evidence but the pain and suffering of Jimmy Anderson. Any concerns that jurors could not handle such potentially disturbing evidence could be properly dealt with during jury selection, not after the trial began.
On another point, the way Judge Skinner handled the case was very unprofessional. I have reason to believe that he carried a personal biased opinion of me since the start of the trial. He repeatedly denied attempts of mine to counter Facher?s strategy, but also repeatedly turned a blind eye to Facher?s own actions against me. I believe that Judge Skinner?s actions should be taken and considered under serious review. His actions confused the law in the juror?s eyes, and his handling of the case was inappropriate and unprofessional. At times, it seemed almost as if he was carrying out more of a personal grudge than using his legal expertise when making rulings on certain court proceedings.