Runaway Jury Essay, Research Paper
Jury duty won’t make you rich. But unfortunately, no judge ever delivered that instruction to Nicholas Easter, protagonist-juror in John Grisham’s new novel The Runaway Jury . It’s a timely legal thriller: giant tobacco companies versus the giant anti-smoking lobby. Three-pack-a-day, 30-year smoker Jacob Wood is dead and his widow’s lawsuit becomes all things to all involved; plaintiffs’ lawyers want to open the door on tobacco liability, and the industry wants it slammed shut. The author (John Grisham) puts The Runaway Jury’s court action in Biloxi, Miss. (his home state) and adds the suspense of the Gulf Coast’s gambling and gumbo. In my opinion its far less compelling than The Rainmaker , faster than The Chamber and more straightforward than The Pelican Brief , Grisham’s sixth novel is a lively read that evokes doubt about the sanctity of the U.S. jury system. Enter provocateur Nicholas Easter, part-time store clerk with clean-shaven, boyish good looks. Easter is very “nice” and really wants to appear unbiased about tobacco. There begins the story and suspicions are soon confirmed, Easter has his own agenda threading through a maze of legal procedure and powerful personalities.
There’s defence lawyer Wendall Rohr, whose name sounds like the volume of his voice. He’s almost too outrageous, with mismatched clothes and clicking dentures. But he’s crafty enough to get $1 million each from seven, anti-tobacco groups in pursuit of a victory that will seal his fortune and his future. In public, the flanks of the defence team are led by Durwood ‘Sir Durr’ Cable, the senior partner whose rich clothes and rich voice put us on edge. Cable and his group look down their “long noses” and smile “phony smiles” at the jury. With many of these quick, hackneyed details, Grisham feeds the reader’s dislike of lawyers. The real battles for the verdict are fought outside the courtroom — and for money. The dark, explosive Rankin Fitch is the industry bully with a fund to pay off jurors’ families and orchestrate mistrials. His talents are rewarded handsomely. There’s the shadowy woman, tiny and pretty Marlee, who takes on the brute Fitch, taunting him with inside information about the jury. She offers him the verdict, for a price. While his characters are detailed and real, the subplots of The Runaway Jury are too quickly grazed. We’re not convinced that one juror and his outside contact can control leagues of lawyers, a judge and jury. The lying, sneaking and dirty tricks are so simplistic that they interrupt the flow of the story. And characters who should know better, legal experts operate with improbable trust.