Day 4 of the Ed Schultz trial was filled with a lot of mind-numbing testimony. There were morning witnesses called by the defense who had to leave by lunchtime. And they were big bores. The day was, as usual, dotted with snide remarks from Judge Beryl Howell toward the plaintiff’s lawyers.
This is par for the course in Howell’s man eating courtroom.
One such series of remarks arrived just before lunch when a juror told the judge that he thought he had a social connection to Paul Woodhull, one of the witnesses and a veteran of the talk radio industry. After all the other jurors filed out, he was hauled back in to speak to the judge in open court.
Initially his connection to Woodhull seemed insignificant. He said he’d never met the guy. But if it was the same person with the same name that he was thinking of, the witness lived in his Capitol Hill neighborhood and his children have played with the juror’s kids.
“I live on Capitol Hill,” juror #1358 informed the judge. “His business address is on Capitol Hill. I’ve never met the gentleman. He has six children. His children may have participated in activities with my children. The person I was aware of with that name had a restaurant at some point.”
The judge asked the juror if his possible familiarity with Woodhull would create any problems concerning impartiality in the case. He said it would not.
Catfish Abbott, the lawyer representing Michael Queen, the NBC producer and sound engineer who is suing Schultz for breach of partnership, raised the concern that the juror may not feel comfortable backing a verdict that favors the plaintiff if the witness lives in the juror’s neighborhood and has ties to his children.
“We believe that this might create a situation where he’s embarrassed to render a verdict against the defendant,” reasoned Catfish. “I would ask that he be removed from the jury.”
The judge scoffed, unable to conceal her disgust.
“Mr. Abbott,” she said, unable to contain her cackling laughter at the country lawyer in the khaki blazer, “would you state your motion about having the juror removed?”
After Catfish finished his spiel, the judge employed dripping sarcasm and asked the opposing attorney, John Hayes, “Do you have any response to Mr. Abbott’s effort to create an appellate issue?”
The snide remark is a dark reference to the reason the case is once again in her courtroom this week. Howell had previously ruled in favor of Schultz, but Queen appealed and the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that his plight to get Schultz to honor his verbal agreements over a 14-month period deserved a jury trial. That appellate court sent the case back to Howell’s courtroom — a fact that has clearly gotten under her pale skin like a bad rash.
Woodhull operates his business, Media Syndication Services, Inc. on Capitol Hill. The address is the 600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast.
And he is, indeed, the Woodhull who lives on Capitol Hill and is the juror’s neighbor. A WaPo business story from 2007 about Americans curbing their spending habits features Woodhull, his home on Capitol Hill as well as his wife and their six lovely children that the juror referenced when he voiced his concerns. Oh and by the way, in case there is still doubt, the piece refers to Woodhull as an “independent radio show producer.”
Hayes, Schultz’s attorney, opposed the motion, arguing that the connection between the juror and the witness was at best “tenuous.” He added, “We don’t even know if it’s the same guy.”
That motion to throw the juror out?
Judge Howell appeared to take glee in rendering her decision:
“The motion is denied.”
If Howell had troubled herself to do a Google search or just ask Woodhull how many offspring he sired, she would have learned it is the same guy.
But ignorance is bliss when you are an Obama appointee doing double duty as Schultz’s lawyer.
Evan Gahr contributed to this report.