It has long been noted that lawyers can (when judges let them) employ the process of jury selection to plant themes, factoids and manipulative images favorable to their cause before a trial even gets under way. Which brings us to the just-begun Galveston trial of lawsuits against BP over a deadly 2005 explosion at its Texas City, Tex. refinery:
As Brent Coon, an attorney representing four of the five workers whose lawsuits are set to be tried, talked to potential jurors, he displayed a picture of Enron’s logo on two large screens behind him.
Jim Galbraith, one of BP’s attorneys, objected to the oil company being compared to what happened at Enron, which went bankrupt in 2001. Galbraith accused Coon of arguing his case before the trial had begun.
“We are not trying to say BP is Enron. But Enron did have a major case with a lot of publicity and did a lot of things wrong,” Coon said before state District Judge Susan Criss ordered the Enron logo off the screens. …
Galbraith later objected when Coon showed the jury pool of more than 200 people a well-known photograph of major tobacco company CEOs raising their hands in 1994 just before they testified to Congress that nicotine wasn’t addictive when internal documents showed the companies knew the opposite was true.
“He’s still arguing his case,” Galbraith said.
Criss later told Coon he couldn’t show any more of these images. …
Just to confirm for those who may be wondering, BP, long known as British Petroleum, is not a tobacco company and has no particular connection to Enron other than being in the energy business. Maybe BP should have used its side of juror selection to flash large images of scandal-plagued or widely disliked Texas plaintiff’s attorneys who are not Brent Coon. (Juan A. Lozano, “BP Objects to Enron Comparisons”, AP/Forbes.com, Aug. 31).