The Delicacy of Working with Numbers in a Court Case
Since the beginning of this trial, DuPont had been disseminating propaganda about its product and the case itself. I was doing my best to disprove its propaganda efforts.
Because I hadn’t gotten Dr. Brent to generally admit in his deposition that the 1982 Staples numbers were a lie, I knew I had to get one of the defense’s other experts, Dr. Judith C. Stadler, to admit it under oath in front of the jury.
But working with numbers and science is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re dealing with a seasoned scientist like Dr. Stadler.
When DuPont realized I had found and then broken down the Staples studies, I believe the company thought it could overcome the obvious discrepancies in its research by bringing in Dr. Stadler as a witness.
She was a senior research toxicologist and head of the inhalation toxicology group at the DuPont laboratory. In its answers to interrogatories, DuPont listed her as one of the top three most-knowledgeable people in the world about the chemical benomyl and the product Benlate, even going so far as to make her the corporate representative for the trial.
DuPont wanted to humanize itself by presenting a face at the trial to address these issues and, admittedly, Dr. Stadler was a good strategic choice. She looked the part, dressing and acting like a conservative professor or a stately, middle-aged high-school teacher.
The interesting thing about having corporate reps attend a trial is that sometimes they’re called to testify and sometimes they aren’t.
In this case, I expected DuPont lead attorney Glynn would put Dr. Stadler on the stand to say what a great company DuPont was and how responsible and safe their scientists were in conducting their research.
Instead of waiting for Glynn, however, I thought the better move would be for me to call Dr. Stadler in my case as an adverse witness.
Dr. Stadler was clearly adverse, as she was DuPont’s corporate representative at the trial. Normally, leading questions are allowed only in cross-examination of witnesses; the exception is with adverse witnesses, who can legitimately be asked leading questions in direct examination.
I felt it was critical that I be able to ask Dr. Stadler leading questions because it was crucial for me to have the ability to simplify complicated concepts for the jury.
My strategy was to break down the math into easy steps so I could get Dr. Stadler to admit that my analysis was correct. Math can be such a powerful tool when used correctly, because numbers don’t lie.
In my next post, I recount my examination of Dr Judith C. Stadler.
You’ll find more details, as well as a full narrative of the preparations for the case and the trial itself, in my book, Blindsided, from which this post is adapted.