Ed Schultz‘s lead attorney may want to brush up on the basic function of the media and how it operates. We ask questions. We dig. We call people. We call him – he never responds be it in person, by email or through a device commonly known as the telephone.
On Friday, just before the jury was released for the day, he approached the judge with one last matter. It involved “something that happened last night.”
What happened last night?
Did his client run out of breath mints? (Ed’s a big fan of mints. Like clockwork, at various points in the court day, he goes to wife, Wendy, hands outstretched, waiting for her to fill them with little mint candies. One day he even ripped one open with his teeth.)
For anyone who hasn’t been following, Schultz is being sued by NBC producer and sound engineer Michael Queen for breach of partnership. The trial has been playing out all week in Washington, D.C. federal court.
The lawyers approached Judge Beryl Howell for a private bench meeting. The noise machine came on. What could have possibly happened to have attorney John Hayes in such a tizzy?
With the noise machine on, it’s impossible to hear what is being said. But from the judges instructions to the jury after, it was obvious what had Hayes so worried: reporters contacting the jury.
Evan Gahr, my coworker, had the gall (and I’m being sarcastic here) to reach out to Hayes on Thursday night by email as well as attorneys for the plaintiff for comment about a juror who said he may have social ties to one of the witnesses. No one from either side responded to Gahr’s inquiry. Gahr did not attempt to phone the juror, who, at this point, goes by a number and not a name.
Earlier in the day, the plaintiff’s attorney Catfish Abbott tried to have the man thrown off the jury. But the judge laughed his motion off as ludicrous, bit Catfish’s head off and ultimately ruled against it.
On Thursday night, The Daily Caller reported that the witness, Paul Woodhull, does, in fact, live in the same Capitol Hill neighborhood as the juror. The juror had expressed concern to the judge that his children had played with the witness’s six children.
Judge Howell never bothered do a simple Google search.
Anyhow, Hayes’ big worry was obviously that reporters (in this case, me and Evan since we’re the only members of the Fourth Estate covering the hearing) would contact members of the jury prior to the verdict.
So Howell left jurors with this stern warning before final summations Monday. “If anybody tries to contact you, do not talk to them about this case,” she said, adding that if they speak to reporters they will be excused from the case.
She also warned jurors not to read any stories that may be written about the case over the weekend.
“When I say don’t look at it, I REALLY mean don’t look at it,” she said.
A question for Hayes to ponder deeply over the weekend: Is it really so foreign to you that a reporter would contact you for comment?
This isn’t the first time in this trial that Hayes complained about Gahr. At the onset of the trial, he whined to the judge about Gahr’s attempt to interview one of their potential witnesses. It was MSNBC’s Jonathan Alter, who never even wound up on their final witness list.
But even if he had, there’s nothing untoward about a reporter calling potential witnesses.
Memo to Hayes: You can ignore us all you want, but to raise preposterous concerns about us phoning up members of the jury is a little off the deep end.
See you Monday, Mr. Hayes.