What does John Edwards know that we don’t know?
Why, as he faces the most important court case in his life, is he wearing this grin in his mugshot?
Given his vast experience as a lawyer, Edwards knows the value of focus groups. Attorneys use focus groups to predict the outcome of a case. They gather small groups of people to serve as a jury and put on a mock court trial before them. The focus groups’ verdict is strong indication of the real verdict. When several focus groups make the same decision, it is a very strong indicator of a real jury’s verdict.
Edwards’ most important case will be his trial on six charges of campaign finance fraud. He has turned down plea deals that would get him just six months prison time. If he loses, he’s looking at 30 years in a federal prison.
He is smiling because he does not expect to lose.
If you look back at Edwards’ highly successful career trying cases, you can figure out why he has such confidence. His most famous personal injury case gives a perfect example of his skill at analyzing focus group reactions.
The year was 1996. The case was that of a little girl who had her intestines sucked out of her body by a pool drain when she was five years old.
The defendant was the manufacturer of the pool drain. The Edwards team turned down their offers of a settlement. Edwards went to trial because of what focus groups told him.
The Edwards team held six focus groups for the case. “They told us what we needed to pay attention to,” Edwards said in an interview with the News & Observer of Raleigh. “They were unbelievably valuable.”
The case was complicated on a technical basis. Jurors had to understand the dangers of a pool drain without a cover, just how powerful the suction of the device could be, and how severe an injury it could cause.
“We knew after the focus groups that we had to have a smart jury,” Edwards said. “I think we had 10 college graduates, and four with master's degrees.”
The focus groups also told him that jurors were inclined to award $20 million or more to the victim.
The pool drain maker raised its settlement offer, and raised it again twice after the trial began. But Edwards held firm.
The plaintiff won a $25 million award. It was the largest award in North Carolina history.
Focus groups have paid off for Edwards before – big time. In his personal injury cases, they have paid off in the millions. He is highly skilled at using them and interpreting their results. Now the payoff will be his freedom.
There is no doubt that Edwards has tried and retried this case a number of times before focus groups. These focus groups clearly signaled him a not guilty verdict. Edwards has been quoted on several occasions that he has great faith in the jury system. We might add that he also has great faith in the focus jury system.
No wonder he’s smiling.