I’ve never before tried a civil insurance fraud case where the trial is about insurance coverage, money, and the reputation of an honest citizen. I’ve also never represented a client who believed more in her case and me than anyone I’ve worked for in 21 years, who happened to own her own business, worked the program, and was a part-time psychic.  And I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in the lead-up to a trial.

I work for Christine.  So one Monday morning in a mildew-smelling Florida courtroom with no space and no décor and no soul, we start her insurance fraud trial. 

We start voir dire.  The panel sits both inside the jury box and outside it.  The court room is small. For those outside the box in the front row, there’s nothing between me and them.  We talk about the proof you need to declare someone a fraud.  We talk about honesty and how much we all hate defrauders.  We’re forming a tribe.  A retired military intelligence man relishes telling me about his career. I touch him while we talk.  I barely remember doing it.  No one says anything.  Later, the judge tells me to back away from them.  I hear nothing the defense lawyer says.

Our opening is a story about consistent truth over time.  Our story is how truth is fidelity to facts.  Christine is real.  She knows how to share emotionally and honestly.  She tells me her life is about rigorous honesty, and it shows.  The judge dislikes the case.    She doesn’t know what to do with me, and I set her off without meaning to.  Maybe she’s scared, too.

I softly cross the defense expert about the scope of his paid-for opinions.  He is an author of a forensic engineering book.  We talk about the importance of ethics and fairness in his work, as he writes in his book.   I ask him if he feels he has treated Christine ethically and fairly and honestly, which sets the judge off again.  The judge’s body language is strongly against us, or me, I can’t tell which.  But it’s killing us, and our jury sees all of it.  On break, I reverse roles with the judge.  That teaches me to not resent and judge her but to use a soft voice and to not say any of it on the record. I just need her understand why her body language speaks to the jury.  She’s offended and mad.  She explains it’s hot in the court room, and that I’ve misunderstood her.  We start up the evidence again.  She sits like a statue for the rest of the trial. 

We close.   We’ve brought our jury everything there is, and it’s truth and real and authentic.  Christine is not a fraud, and she’s not a witch in Salem.  I tell the jury we’re scared and we don’t know what else to say.  There is so much evidence proving she’s real and honest that I climb up on top of counsel table.  It’s just in the moment for me, and it isn’t planned.  I say, ‘if you could physically stack our evidence it would reach higher than my hand.’  Not an objection, and not a sound from the judge.  

Two hours into their deliberations, the jury is deadlocked.   I’m beating myself up alone in a hallway going over what I could do different in the second trial.  The judge reads the deadlocked instruction, and they go back in.  More time passes.  The jury wants my cross of the insurance company’s expert re-read.  I cringe, thinking they want this to convince each other that the insurance company is right, that Christine is a fraud.  I had an expert to counter their paid-for expert, but chose not to bring him.  We don’t need him to show the jury the truth in our story, I thought.  Was I wrong?  Will we lose because of my decision?

No.  We win.   We win everything, coverage, fees, and we win the insurance company’s counterclaim they brought against Christine. 

Christine is not a fraud, of course.  My voice through the trial is indeed my true voice.   I am real.  We brought our jury the truth and they brought Christine into their tribe.

While the jury deliberated, Christine drew angels on sticky notes which she arranged on the same table I had stood on. A week later she explained them to me.  She drew the jury as angels who were there to save her.  The judge was God.   Her many supporters who came during the trial were her guardian angels.

She drew me on a sticky. 

“John, you were my Warrior Angel.” 

Her words.

All of the TLC tribe was there with Christine and me and our jury in that small, tense, smelly Florida court room where the client saw angels on her jury and put wings on her Warrior Angel.  How beautiful it is to be in those moments.