March 15, 2019


By Agent OJ – “Johnson Juror #4”

It is Tuesday afternoon as I write this, knowing I will be on verdict watch tomorrow starting at 8:30 AM. I have thoughts about this jury. Actually, I don’t know this jury very well, if at all. I have been concerned about the light note-taking, but have decided that is irrelevant. For all I know these folks have photographic memories, and besides, Judge Chhabria cautioned them not to take too many notes lest it distract them from the proceedings.

Regardless, this is a very special jury simply because Hardeman v Monsanto is such an important case. It is, of course, a bellwether case selected by Judge Chhabria from hundreds of lawsuits brought against Monsanto in federal court. And it is the first Roundup case to go before a jury in Federal Court, and only the second case to go before a jury ever. Johnson v Monsanto was the first. I sat on that jury so I may have an idea of the weight of responsibility that the Hardeman jurors are feeling right now. If they are anything at all like my jury, I feel certain that they take their job very seriously and above all want to get the verdict right. They don’t want a man to be turned away if the law and the evidence are on his side. And if the evidence does not lean towards Mr. Hardeman, they want to get that right too. Finding for a plaintiff in the latter instance may not actually help him or her in the long run, and certainly would not help the thousands of other plaintiffs lining up for their day in court—it would give them an inaccurate gauge of their chances. Getting it right may even become a point of pride for this jury, as it did for me. So, whichever way they decide, I will not doubt that they put everything they had into thorough, careful, deliberations.

Make no mistake, AOJ wants this jury to find for the plaintiff, or more accurately: the evidence I have seen over the past couple weeks preponderates in favor of Mr. Hardeman. It is mostly the same science I saw at the Johnson trial, with some additional science that strengthens the plaintiff’s case, as well as longer latency and exposure. Then there is the matter of his Hep B and Hep C, which appeared to me to be quite complicated but ultimately of no consequence. According to the updated jury instructions an exposure to another risk factor does not negate the Roundup exposure.

It is Wednesday morning and I am officially on verdict watch now. I arrived early just in case another crowd showed up today, but I could have slept in. The courtroom is dark. Did I not get the memo the the whole thing is cancelled? I did notice a juror leaving the cafeteria downstairs, so at least I won’t be the only one who didn’t get the memo. As a few attorneys and journalists straggle in I gain confidence that this really is happening today. 

I brought along Carol Van Strum’s A Bitter Fog to read if this drags out all day. It is one of three very depressing books I have been reading. I am at best a third of the way into them, so if there is a hopeful, uplifting chapter, I have not gotten to it yet. Carol’s book is about the spraying of massive amounts of the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T on timberland in the western US starting in the sixties. (Yes, those are the ingredients in Agent Orange.) Of course, people lived in these remote areas, on idyllic farms like Carol’s, and they were sprayed. The wilting gardens, sick and dying farm animals and wildlife is heartbreaking to read, and the illnesses the people got, well, there just are no words. To think I took a break from The Devils Chessboard by David Talbot and A Lie Too Big to Fail, by Lise Peaseto read this because they were, well, also soul crushing. The Devils Chessboard chronicles the evil doings of Allen Dulles and the rise of the CIA, while A Lie To Big to Fail is a new and very detailed look at the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Pease asserts that RFK and JFK “put themselves at odds with” the people who wanted to control resources, economy, media and covert operation. 

It is frightening that Pease’s assertion links my three depressing reads together. It also reminds me of great piece that Rebecca Solnit wrote for Harpers a few years ago in which she came up with the brilliant observation that the massive techno/industrial buildup that accompanied World War II transformed at that war’s end into a war on the environment, with equally destructive results. I feel like the Hardeman trial, and the Johnson trail, along with the army of activists who have been fighting Monsanto for decades, fighting for sustainability and environmental justice, and fighting the big one— climate change—I feel like this is the beginning of the ending of this war. 

It has to be, or else we are pretty much fucked, folks. Note: I am feeling pretty optimistic today.

I have spoken with one attorney who believes we should have a verdict this morning. He is leaning towards the plaintiff or a hung jury, as am I. 

Let’s pass some more time and talk about science for a little bit.

I believe in science. But what does that really mean? Well, I think it means that when things get boiled down to numbers, numbers don’t lie. If you don’t believe this, then I would not drive across a bridge, or get on an airplane. A bridge spans the Golden Gate because engineers applied science to things like steel beams, geology, and the weather and did some relatively basic mathematical calculations and voila, it doesn’t fall down. It doesn’t hurt that a century ago they would do the calculations and then make everything twice as strong, just to be sure. Nowadays, with supercomputers, engineers don’t pad the calculations as much, because the computer models the structure, or the airplane, much more accurately. 

So what about getting on that airplane? The two tragedies with Boeing 737 max 8 planes illustrate that supercomputers, and the engineers running them, may not be perfect. So when the engineering fails, where does that leave us? Well in many cases it leaves us with trusting a large corporation and/or government regulators to decide the safest thing to do. In the case of the 737 Max 8 airplanes, Boeing stands by the airworthiness of the plane, as does the FAA. Now, AOJ  is just going to change a few words in that last sentence: In the case of plaintiff’s NHL, Monsanto stands by the safety of Roundup, as does the EPA. *Sigh*

Well, that killed all of 20 minutes. I now officially apologize for not getting the Johnson verdict out faster than we did.

It is 11:40 AM and no verdict BUT I just read breaking news that the FAA ordered the 737 Max 8 planes to be grounded! Now, what are the chances the EPA will order glyphosate based herbicides to be banned?

More murmurs comprised of speculation that this will be a hung jury.

Not so fast murmurers. I think the longer this jury takes means that they are getting down to really analyzing the evidence they have to work with.

Well, it’s getting late now. 3:18 PM. I have passed the time talking with a lawyer about all sorts of stuff, off the record. I like attorneys. I find they have a wide range of interests beyond the law which at the very least helps keep the conversation moving whilst waiting for verdicts. Someone should bring a deck of cards or jigsaw puzzle to these verdict vigils.

And that’s a wrap for the day. We find out from the journalists that the jury went home. My lawyer friend wonders why they don’t tell the lawyers anything.

A final note for today: After the Johnson verdict, many people thanked me for our verdict against Monsanto, they still do. My response is always the same: I didn’t do anything, other than show up on time, pay careful attention, and be fair and impartial. If I ever meet a Hardeman juror, that is what I will thank them for, no matter the verdict. I have great respect for these jurors and now have a better understanding of why the courtroom would stand whenever we entered or left, and as we do for this jury. I want to have a tee-shirt printed up: the scales of justice with “I Stand For Jurors” underneath, because juries are the underpinning of justice.

©️2019 Robert Howard

Kelly Ryerson

I’m writing on behalf of all those who are chronically sick, fatigued, depressed, anxious, cancer-ridden, hormonally off, coping with allergies, suffering with pain, digestively wrecked, and accidentally dependent on multiple medications. We deserve to know the truth about how Monsanto's herbicide Roundup has made us a devastatingly sick population.