Jury Foreperson Was One Smart Cookie: Simple Takeaways From The Apple v. Samsung Trial

Bloomberg TV interviewed Vel Hogan, the foreperson of the jury in the recent Apple v. Microsoft patent trial, which returned a $1 billion verdict in Apple’s favor.  Undoubtedly future jury consultants will anchor entire PhD theses on this trial.  I don’t pretend to have the education and experience to do any kind of in-depth analysis.  But a few interesting points can be quickly gleaned from the interview.

Takeaway Number 1: Vel is smart.  But not just intelligent or wise.  He possesses the kind of intelligence, training and knowledge necessary to grasp much, if not all, of the technically sophisticated evidence presented during a patent trial.  According to my crack internet research, Hogan is VP of Engineering for Multicast Laboratories.  He holds patents and has been a member of the Silicon Valley tech community for over 30 years.  I would think most patent lawyers would be heartened to know jurors of Vel’s intellect are out there, available to be impaneled (particularly if your trial is conducted in a venue rife with tech engineers).  He said in the interview that the jurors were “inundated” with evidence.  Someone less intelligent or uninterested in technology could easily have been overwhelmed by the evidence and, rather than considering and re-considering the evidence–a great deal of which was highly technical — reached a verdict instead based the cut of John Quinn’s suits or because they like Apple’s TV commercials.

On the other hand, for the reason I am about to discuss (in Takeaway Number 2), many trial lawyers might be fearful of a juror of Vel’s intellect in this kind of case.  Purely from the interview, it does not appear Vel had any bias going into the trial or deliberations.  He owns no Apple products; his wife has a Samsung phone, but it’s not a smart phone.  If he had any bias that he concealed during voir dire, but that he brought into the jury room, it could have been a problem.  Why?

Takeaway Number 2: Vel served as a torch-bearing guide to most of the other jurors.  I speculate that it took the other jurors no time at all to select Val as their foreperson.   They knew from voir dire that he was a techie.  They probably paid attention to his expressions and slightest comments throughout the trial.  If/when he took notes, they either wrote notes themselves or wondered what they had missed that was so important.  He said in the interview that they started deliberations with a question and answer session, trying to clear up confusion some of the jurors had about certain issues.  Vel was thus their teacher, and their trusted guide in a way that none of the lawyers or witnesses could have been.  I suspect this was particularly true because I read about (and Vel Hogan alluded to)  Judge Koh’s frustrations with the lawyers for both sides throughout the trial.  The judge’s scoldings likely eroded the jurors’ confidence in the lawyers to guide them through the trial.  Thus, as a knowledgeable, likeable, apparently objective teacher and guide, Vel Hogan’s ability to influence the outcome of the trial was enormous.

Takeaway Number 3: Vel took the legal questions home with him and continued to deliberate.  He alluded during the interview to an “Aha” moment he had one night during the deliberations.  Before that, at the outset of the deliberations, he thought the verdict would likely be in Samsung’s favor.  But there was a single point that he struggled with (whether the No. 460 patent was invalidated by prior art).  He said that, after he internally resolved that struggle and decided he could defend the patent if it had been his own, much of the remainder of the deliberations went smoothly.  I speculate (with extra emphasis on that word) that the deliberations thereafter went smoothly because Vel, as the torch-bearing guide and teacher, had made his decision.  All that remained was for Vel to explain his own reasoning to the others.

Takeaway Number 4;  The jurors worked in a systematic fashion to reach their conclusions.  Several comments during the interview suggested that the deliberations were indeed deliberate.  They addressed the “simplest things first.”  If they hit a bump in the road, it would not derail their progress.  Rather, they suspended judgment on that point and moved on, with the plan to re-address the bump in the road informed by the outcome of their other deliberations.  In this way, they navigated their way (with their torch-bearing guide) through a veritable morass of evidence and instructions.

The interview is worth watching.  If I’ve mis-paraphrased Vel’s comments, please let me know.  I struggled with embedding the code, so the best I can offer is a link: https://bloom.bg/OkRkhk.

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