The trial between the state of Oklahoma and Johnson & Johnson began on Tuesday in the Cleveland County Courthouse, just across the street from my office. I spent a good amount of time sitting on the courtroom's hard wooden benches, and it was quite an experience.
All the most important news from the past four days of trial have occupied my stories, but I wanted to let you all know what it's been like to cover this trial from a personal perspective.
The first day, Tuesday (Monday was Memorial Day, so no court) the room was absolutely packed, including the media section. Reporters from the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Bloomberg, CNN and more crowded into the courtroom, with satellite trucks outside. Local media from The Oklahoman, the Associated Press and The Frontier were in town as well. It was really a refreshing experience to be surrounded by so many gracious, interesting colleagues.
As a huge Law & Order fan, I was eager to find out what actual court proceedings were like. There's no jury in this trial, and it's a criminal trial, not a civil one, but between the opening statements, objections (sustained!) and cross examinations, my inner court nerd has been satisfied. It can be difficult to cover, because each day typically lasts around 6.5 hours of questioning and testimony. It's a steady wave of information, a wave I'm doing my best to stay in front of.
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The vast majority of the trial is serious -- after all, the two sides are debating a serious issue with a potential multi-billion dollar judgment on the line. But when you're in the room with someone else in a high stress situation for hours and hours on end, a little levity can be appropriate.
There's been some odd moments as well. At one point, an attorney for the state asked an expert witness if opioids were more dangerous "than a cobra."
"I'm not really familiar with cobras…" the witness replied.
"Well, how about rattlesnakes?" the attorney asked. Not much better.
We've also received advice on fishing, shooting arrows and what to order at Sonic. At least two U.S. presidents have been quoted.
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Before the trial kicked off, on Memorial Day, I went to the IOOF Cemetery for the American Legion's annual Memorial Day service. It's always a sobering experience, standing there with small U.S. flags adorning the graves of fallen soldiers. American Legion Post 88 in Norman works with local Boy Scouts to plant the flags.
The American Legion does a great job, with a Legion chaplain presenting a relevant message, the Norman police honor guard, and the playing of Taps. It's a quick service -- 15, 20 minutes -- but having covered it now for four years, I view it as an important reminder that over the past 240 years, Americans have been willing to fight and die for a belief in something greater than themselves.
It's humbling, it's serious… it matters. I hope you're able to attend the service next year. It's always on Memorial Day at 11 a.m. It's worth your time to remind the veterans and their families who attend that their efforts, and the sacrifices of their friends and family members, matter.