As we’re waiting for the fifth trial to begin, let’s re-examine the first four trials.
Fact #1: The trials didn’t happen because an irritated neighbor drove to a local lawyer’s office, sat down and said, My neighbor’s hog farm’s a nuisance. I want to sue him. Instead, a group of lawyers came to North Carolina, knocked on hog farmers’ neighbors’ doors and said, ‘We’ll sue the hog farmer. We’ll pay the bills. You sign here and be a plaintiff. And if we win you’ll get part of the money.’ It proved to be an enticing offer. It’s why we have these lawsuits.
Fact #2: Oddly, no juror heard about that fact during the trials. The lawyers for the plaintiffs asked the judge to instruct Smithfield’s lawyers not to mention it to jurors. And the judge agreed. Why did that matter?During the Joey Carter farm trial,four of Carter’s neighbors testified for him. One told the jury: “It’s not what they say. There is not an odor, and I live so close to the farm I can hear the feeders run out in the hog house.” Another said: “We live next door. My wife and kids, we walk on the farm and near it. There’s no issue, no concern, no odor.” A third testified what was being said about Joey Carter’s farm did not make sense. And a fourth testified: “I hate to feel like an innocent man is going down.”
A fifth witness, the local postwoman, told the jury, “I can’t tell you the last time I’ve smelled odor from the farm.” Day in and day out, that postwoman had delivered mail to Joey Carter’s farm – and she couldn’t recall the last time she smelled odor.
In addition, a respected scientist who’d done studies at Joey Carter’s farm had found no objectionable odor.
Two neighbors – who signed up for the lawsuits – testified against him.
But neither plaintiff was asked, You lived beside that hog farm for years but didn’t complain – then a lawyer knocked on your door and said, ‘We’ll sue the hog farmer. Join us, we’ll pay the bills and you could make money.’ Is the reason you’re suing to make money?
Wouldn’t that have gone straight to the heart of plaintiffs’ testimony? And their credibility? But no juror ever heard that question asked – or knew even it existed – because the Judge had ruled jurors shouldn’t be told that fact.
Part 2 of a 6 part series