The Runaway Jury

The Runaway Jury

infobox Book |
name = The Runaway Jury

image_caption =
author = John Grisham
country = United States
language = English
genre = Legal thriller novel
publisher = Doubleday Books
release_date = 1996
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 414 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = ISBN 0-385-47294-3 (first edition, hardback)

"The Runaway Jury" is a legal thriller novel written by American author John Grisham. The hardcover first edition was published by Doubleday Books in 1996 (ISBN 0-385-47294-3). Pearson Longman released the graded reader edition in 2001 (ISBN 0-582-43405-X). The novel was published again in 2003 to coincide with the release of "Runaway Jury", a movie adaptation of the novel. The third printing (ISBN 0-440-22147-1) bears a movie-themed cover, in place of the covers used on the first and second printings. In 2003, it was made into a film starring John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman.

Plot summary

Widow Celeste Wood is suing a tobacco company for killing her husband. She hires a lawyer named Mr. Rohr, who has had mixed results in court cases before, never one this big. Her reason: Cigarettes killed her husband. The judge in the case is found out to be Judge Harkin, who is about to have the largest case he has ever seen in his courtroom.

On the defense are the tobacco companies. In particular a tobacco company known as Pynex and its head, Mr. Jankle. It is part of a group known as the Big Four, a small group of very powerful and influential cigarette companies that has joined forces to defend their names. Together, they have formed "The Fund" - a seemingly bottomless well of money intended to be used in the cases such as this.

They hire Rankin Fitch - a devious expert who has helped to "win" cases like this before, often through corrupt and illegal ways. He has no shadow, and is virtually unknown to everyone else in the world, except for the rich companies who need external help in delivering them a verdict. He does not get directly involved in the courtroom, but his actions greatly alter the outcome. Fitch prefers to remain hidden and let the Companies' lawyers take care of the talking.

For the Defense, Durwood Cable is the prime lawyer, though dozens of additional lawyers, paralegals, and assistants are there for support, on demand. Unlike the plaintiff, the defense has plenty of money to spend on proper and professional litigators.

Both sides of the case start to snoop around and find out information on the potential jurors. One particular juror that scares both sides is Nicholas Easter. Not much is known about his past, other than he registered to vote in Biloxi, Mississippi (where this fictitious case is being held) a few weeks before the choosing of the jurors. He is also recorded as a student, no one can find what college he has ever attended. They figure this to be a lie.

The court is now in session, and it is time for the jury selection. Judge Harkin begins by dismissing those with medical hardships. An issue arises when Herman Grimes is found to be legally blind. The judge tells him he is dismissed, but Herman refuses to leave. After threatening to sue for not being allowed on a jury, Harkin decides to keep him on. Harkin then continues to dismiss those who he finds to have real nonmedical hardships. Nicholas Easter is still a potential juror. Now, the lawyers choose who they want on their jury. They are given a number of "strikes" to use on jurors who they do not wish to have involved in the case. Nicholas Easter is potential juror number 56. After some debate and several uses of strikes, Easter ends up in the jury. He is now known as juror number 2.

The chosen jurors, and the additional jurors for Pynex vs. Celeste Wood:

# Nicholas Easter
# Jerry Fernandez
# Rikki Coleman
# Millie Dupree
# Angel Weese
# Sylvia Taylor-Tatum
# Frank Herrera
# Gladys Card
# Loreen Duke
# Stella Hulic
# Lonnie Shaver
# Herman Grimes

* Phillip Savelle - Additional
* Shine Royce - Additional
* Henry Vu - Additional

Thus there are the 12 jurors, plus three in case three of the twelve cannot continue; that will decide the outcome of this trial. The jury returns to their room, and selects their foreman - Herman. The judge gives them strict orders not to discuss the case with anyone, and Herman makes sure everyone obeys, as he is a stickler for obeying every rule.

It is now time for the plaintiff to start the case. Rohr opens by showing a video of Mr. Wood, just before he dies. In it, he blames the Tobacco industry for his slow demise, and wishes he never started smoking. The video stirs the jury for a while, but after several hours of listening, the jury becomes bored.

Meanwhile, a young lady slips into the courtroom and hands a bailiff an envelope. She asks him to hand it to a certain man - Rankin Fitch is the name she gives when the bailiff asks. She pleads with him to hand it to Mr. Fitch, saying that she is in a great hurry, and must get on with her day. The bailiff consents, and takes the envelope to Fitch. This, of course, surprises Rankin since no one should know him. He asks the bailiff who she was, but only gets a less than satisfactory answer.

Upon opening the envelope, Fitch finds a slip of paper with a description of what juror number 2 (Nicholas Easter) will wear the next day. This excites Fitch, who thinks that someone may be working on the outside with someone on the inside. He sends out the word to watch for the girl with the description that the bailiff gave him.

Meanwhile, the trial continues. Rankin Fitch no longer wants to remain in the courtroom, so he sends in a briefcase that has a small camera built into it. The case is set under the defense table, while the trial continues. The camera is aimed at the jury, so Fitch can watch their every move.

At lunchtime, the first of many dilemmas occur. The lunch for the jurors does not come on time. After several minutes of waiting, Nicholas Easter becomes impatient. He starts to complain, and eventually goes to meet Judge Harkin, who was busy eating lunch at a high class restaurant. Easter complains, and the judge realizes that it is indeed unfair to eat an excellent meal while the jurors starve, and decides to invite them all to the restaurant. All of the jurors enjoy a very good lunch with the judge, and credit Easter for this. Upon investigation of why the food was late, they find that the owner of the place where they were to get the food received a phone call that they would not need the lunch until an hour later than first planned. He promises that it will never happen again.

The trials continue, and several more expert witnesses are called to the stand over a period of several days. The jury starts to get bored, and they no longer pay attention. Easter convinces the jurors, who are now his friends, to glare at a particular jury-consultant woman in the Defense, whose job it is to monitor the jury, and stare at them. Thus, once they are seated, all of them glare at her, to the curiosity of not only the defense and plaintiff, but the judge as well. Even more disturbed, is Rankin Fitch, who is sitting next to her and believes they are staring at him.

Later, The mysterious woman hints to Fitch that there was a reason for why the jurors stared at him. She causes him to assume that the jury is being controlled by her. Later on, she relays different information to Fitch, such as what Easter will wear, or what Jerry Herandez will be reading. Fitch grows more and more excited as he thinks about "buying" a verdict. After a few calls, Fitch learns of the girl's name - Marlee.

Fitch now starts to weave his web around the jurors, trying to get them to vote for his side. He starts by getting an African American on the jury, Lonnie Shaver, to vote for his side. Lonnie is a manager in a grocery store chain, and Fitch has Lonnie's bosses offer him a raise and promotion. Later, when meeting with other executives, They tell Lonnie that Tobacco is a major product for them, and they convince him to vote for the defense, and try to convince the others to do so as well.

Fitch also fabricates a sting operation on a husband of one of the woman serving on the jury. Fitch sends in a guy from a "large real estate company" (based in Las Vegas) to make Hoppy Dupree (who owns a very small real estate agency) agree to try to get a very notorious man to sell land to the larger company. Hoppy agrees, and the seller gets the man to sell the land, although he has to use a bribe. Later, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents approach Hoppy and tell him he is going to jail for this illegal activity. The only way Hoppy can get out is to convince his wife to vote for the tobacco company. They say it has something to do with the Republicans. Hoppy, seeing a way out, agrees. The "agents" are in fact private eyes hired by Fitch.

Nicholas Easter finds one day that his shabby apartment room had been broken in. He has a computer, which is left untouched, and also has a high tech security camera system. Easter gets the intrusion on tape, but does not show the video to the judge until later.

Meanwhile, Stella Hulic and her husband travel to Miami for some R&R. However, Lonnie gets a mysterious call in her hotel room. A woman who tells her spies from the Tobacco industry are watching her. This greatly upsets Stella, who later sees a man with a camera following them, thus convincing her it is true, when in fact, the man was paid by Marlee.

Judge Harkin, seeing the tape, hearing the news that other jurors are possibly being followed, and watching Stella Hulic break down as she explained her trip, decides to remove Stella from the Jury (a major blow to the Defense, who believed Stella, a smoker, would support them) and have the jury sequestered. Phillip Savelle takes her place.

The court case continues on. The plaintiff now bring in what will turn out to be a killer of the defense. This witness was a former worker for the tobacco company. He helped to develop a tobacco product that had lower nicotine levels, but it was discredited by the tobacco company. He later saw a memo that said if they tried to sell a product with lower nicotine levels, they would not make money. They had to work to continue to increase the nicotine levels in the tobacco products.

Pynex's stock, which had been doing fine, started to trade lower. This witness hurt the defense.

The plaintiff finishes their case by calling the widow, Mrs. Wood to the stand. The defense, who has cross-examined everyone else, chooses not to cross-examine Mrs. Wood.

Fitch continues to be in contact with Marlee. She now allows a face to face meeting with Fitch. She says that she has also been in contact with Rohr, and will create a verdict for whoever pays her the highest. By this time, Fitch has figured out that Marlee is working with Easter. Fitch also has been sending out men to try to find out about Marlee's past.

Meanwhile, Easter is becoming an asset to a lot of the jurors. Hoppy Dupree tries to convince his wife to support the defense, but ends up making her suspicious. Jerry Fernandez (close to divorcing his wife) and Sylvia Taylor-Tatum have an affair, which is legal. Derrick Weese, husband of Angel Weese, begins to talk with the plaintiff, and is offered $10,000 for her vote. The jurors, with the exception of Herman Grimes, congregate and discuss the trial. In one discussion, a lot of them realize that the started smoking in their teens, just as the plaintiff said, because the Tobacco Industry's target is teens who will be addicted for life.

The defense is now up. They start by calling the head of the Pynex company, a notorious alcoholic Jankle. He does okay, but the cross-examination by Rohr wrecks it all, because Jankle starts talking about how if his product is abused, it could cause lung cancer or other injuries. Rohr tears this theory apart, limb by limb, and the day ends on a not-so-good note for the defense. To fix the damage done, the defense calls two beautiful women to the stand to say that the advertising is not what is or should be at fault. The tobacco companies cannot help it if younger children see their advertisement. They only use beautiful people in their commercials and ads because no-one wants to look at old, overweight people smoking (which is ironic, because the Defense is using attractive people to sell their argument).

Marlee has now learned about the people Fitch sent out to learn about her past. She is angered by this, and threatens to give the jury a plaintiff's verdict if he does not call them off. Fitch calls them off, but then sends in ex-Central Intelligence Agency and ex-FBI agents who promise not to get caught.

The case is beginning to reach the end, when suddenly, Marlee calls Fitch and tells him the juror, Frank Herrera, will be removed, much to Fitches horror. Sure enough, one of the jurors, Frank Herrera gets removed from the jury. He is found to have unauthorized materials, the business magazine Mogul, in his room. Easter planted Mogul there to get rid of Herrera, since he was likely to support the defense, and because he was irritating to a lot of the jurors. This greatly annoys Fitch, who knew that the man would have been on his side.

In Frank's place, Henry Vu is added in. Since Easter made it a point to befriend the add ins (with the exception of Savelle, who isn't too friendly), and Vu takes an immediate liking to this bright young man. Marlee meets again with Fitch, and strikes up a deal. If Fitch wires her ten million dollars, she will give him the verdict. Fitch gets excited, and agrees, believing that one of the most important cases he's had will be his easist. He follows her instructions, and sends Marlee her money.

With the jury close to voting, Hoppy decides to confront his wife with the truth. Greatly upset, she turns to Easter, who says he'll call a friend to help them. Marlee determines the "agents" aren't agents, and notifies the FBI. A real FBI agent, Madden, grabs the would-be "agents" in Hoppy's office, and arrests them. He drives them out of the state of Mississippi, and frees them, warning them to stay out of the state. Thus, Fitch's masterful con is extinguished. Millie, forever grateful for Easter's help, will now support him entirely.

Jack Swanson, a professional for Fitch, tracks down Marlee's past, and finds out she is Gabreille Brandt. He further searches for her family, as Marlee receives the 10 million and puts it into the stock market, shortselling Pynex and betting that it will fall like a stone.

It is now time to decide on the verdict. Easter decides with Marlee to bump one more person - Herman Grimes. Easter drops a couple of tablets into Herman's coffee. These tablets make Herman appear to have a heart attack, although he will be fine later.

Easter is the obvious choice as the next foreman and starts the deliberations. They start to read through the documents provided, to the distaste of a couple of the jurors, Savelle and Shaver, one of whom wants to vote immediately and for the defense. They all agree cigarettes kill and that nicotine is addictive. Most look to Easter for his vote. He decides to reward the Plaintiff with 2 million for damages, and 1 billion for punitive measures.

Meanwhile, Swanson learns that Marlee's mother and father died from lung cancer. He informs Fitch, who at first takes it pretty well, but eventually trashes his office in anger.

Easter defends his ridiculous billion by arguing that it will show the Tobacco industry that they can't always defeat plaintiffs, and that they must be accoutable for their product. The jurors wittle it down to $400,000,000 plus 2,000,000 for the plaintiff. They finally reach a verdict with 9 to 3 in favor of the plaintiff.

The lawyers, who usually fail to express emotion towards the ruling, throw that professional idea out the window as Rohr celebrates and Cable imitates being shot in the gut. The media goes beserk with the story, and Pynex's stock plummets. Marlee and Easter escape with their money, and the additional millions made by selling the stock short.

Six weeks later, Marlee appears from nowhere and sits next to Fitch. She tells him she wired the $10 million back to him, since she intended to borrow it, not sell it. When asked by Fitch why she was here, Marlee tells him she wanted to make sure he knew why she did this (her parents death from smoking). She tells him she had to watch them slowly die a tragic death, and decided to find a promising law student (Easter) who would help her exact justice.

In the end, Easter and Marlee are both rich and satisfied they served justice to the Tobacco companies. Fitch continues to work juries, but his reputation is shattered by this defeat. The Tobacco companies, once undefeatable, are now vulerable to lawsuits. Rohr has more lawyer-requests than he knows what to do with. Pynex plans to appeal, though they know the damage is done.

Right before she leaves, Marlee promises Fitch that for the next trial, she and Easter will be there.

External links

* [ Publication history and critical reactions]

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