“Despite the defense teams’ best efforts to get me to focus on their story-line by refuting their facts and ultimately calling for a mis-trial because I used TLC methods, I maintained my credibility and told my clients’ story at every phase of the trial. And my client was awarded a seven-figure verdict .” – Bill Gilbert, TLC-July, 2014
Bill Gilbert is a trial lawyer in Spokane, Washington. His practice emphasizes personal injury, wrongful death, medial negligence, and civil rights litigation. He attended his first TLC Regional Seminar in 2004, graduated 10-years later in 2014, and joined the TLC faculty team in 2015. His most recent win was on behalf of his clients, the Rookstool family, for compensation for the injuries suffered by their three children in a school bus accident in 2012. With the help of a solid TLC foundation, he and associated trial counsel, Kristine Grelish, were able to obtain a $1.21 million jury verdict for their clients.
Obstacles During Voir Dire
During jury selection, Bill established his credibility with the jury and maintained that throughout the trial. Voir dire was complicated by the fact that several potential jurors were hearing impaired. This required the use of special hearing aids for those jurors that forced Bill to speak directly into a microphone while sitting behind the counsel table. He couldn’t interact at an individual level with the venire, which caused a disconnect from the outset. Ever conscious of ‘creating his tribe’ and maintaining the concept of inclusion versus exclusion, Bill did his best to openly and honestly communicate with the jury at a personal level. The response was guarded by using TLC methods such as role reversal, doubling, and the listening exercise. He was able to vet out issues with jurors who, under the circumstances, needed to go. Because he was limited in the interpersonal interaction aspect of voir dire, he picked his jurors based on their honesty, trusting that if they are honest in discussing these difficult issues in front of the group, they will naturally share and bond with the group – and expect the same from Bill. With this in mind during jury selection, he knew all he had to do was speak as honestly to them as they had to him, maintain his credibility, and trust and empower these folks enough to ultimately make the right decision for his clients.
The defense tried to make the case all about the medicine. While Kristine managed the medicine for the plaintiffs, Bill pounded away at the human story; putting it into action at every opportunity. The jury participated in ranch chores, stacking hay, pounding posts, driving a combine, and tractor. Each of these witness interaction demonstrations brought the jury closer to the family and the story behind the case. Cross-examination of defense experts was no different. Bill called an expert off the stand to demonstrate a technique he suggested was the proper method of testing hand strength – and the expert demonstrated it improperly; which the jury caught immediately.
Using the TLC methods through trial softened the courtroom for closing. Bill introduced the jury to the pain, suffering and mental anguish of his most injured client by arguing from the first person perspective.
Bill explained: “I used a classic TLC method and asked the jury during my Closing Argument to close their eyes as I closed mine, and I situated myself as my client. I then said, ‘I’m 21 years old and my name is MaKayla Rookstool. Five years ago, I was injured severely when my school bus crashed, and this is what my life has looked like ever since.’ And then I just went through it all, from the eyes of my injured client.”
No objection. Bill used role reversals – using himself and even opposing counsel as exemplars. (objection/sustained – curative instruction) He discussed the jury’s role as the conscience of the community, and he pounded away at the theme of accepting responsibility for one’s actions. By showing the jury instead of telling them, the jury could better understand that the pain and suffering lasted far beyond the accident and was made worse by conscious decisions made by the school district – decisions that could have been different and could have lessened the hardship caused to these innocent children.
The case went to the jury Friday afternoon. The defense filed a motion for a mis-trial on Sunday, arguing the closing argument was improper and prejudicial. With the motion pending, the Jury returned a verdict Monday mid-morning.
The Defense Motion for Mistrial
In the motion for mis-trial, the defense counsel stated that Bill violated the golden rule: that his use of TLC methods ‘went far beyond the proper scope of a closing argument.’ They accused him of ignoring the factual evidence ‘regarding the medicine’, and instead made a plea to the jury to decide the case based on their emotions and their sympathy for the plaintiffs and their anger against the defending school district, rather than on ‘the facts’.
Had the judge granted the mis-trial, it would have been a devastating blow to the TLC methods used. But mis-trial was not granted, and after an extensive 5-year case, the jury granted the Rookstool family a $1.2 million verdict for the pain and injuries caused to these three innocent children for no fault of their own. Score another victory for justice and for Bill, Kristine, and their use of TLC methods.
Want first-hand training and experience working with TLC Faculty, Bill Gilbert?
Join him and other TLC-trained faculty at the Voir Dire California Regional Seminar in Newport Beach on March 2-4, 2018.