For a trial defined by betrayal, steeped in music industry depression and weighed down by a key witness' dyslexia and dyspraxia, Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd. versus Citigroup Inc. sure had its diversions.
Early on, days before Juror No. 6 was prematurely returned to day jobs that the press erroneously called balloon twisting and circus performing (more on that later), David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP found himself in the unusual role of straight man. That is, on hearing Ted Wells of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP mock dys-squared Guy Hands of Terra Firma for bringing such a public suit against a family man, Boies set up U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff merely by objecting.
The judge sustained the objection, having heard much in opening statements not only about the three children of Wells' client David Wormsley -- Citi's adviser to Terra Firma on its purchase of EMI Group plc -- but also about the four children of Boies' client Hands. "I congratulate them on their fertility," he quipped, "but I do think it's rather irrelevant."
Rakoff scored again during closing arguments after Wells promised to take the jury to "detective school . . . like 'CSI,' 'Columbo,' 'Kojak,' whatever your generation." Minutes later, before announcing an afternoon recess, the 67-year-old judge chided the Paul Weiss lawyer for having "overlooked a certain generation . . . What about Sherlock Holmes for old folks like me?"
According to juror sentiment, Citi's victory didn't really gel until closing arguments. Wells, perhaps sensing as much, personally retained a courtroom artist to capture the moment. "Ted said it had been years since he last had an illustration by me," explains Christine Cornell, who has been rendering famous trials for three decades. (See page 52 for her depiction of Wells.)
What put Citi over the top, apparently, was Wells' stressing a lack of written evidence to support charges the bank had goaded Hands into paying double what he now believes the U.K. record company to be worth. "The one document you don't see is what the case is about," the attorney said.
That defied belief, he continued, for businessmen so into documenting their lives the court even knows what appetizers they enjoyed on a summer dinner together. "Mr. Hands had smoked salmon; Mr. Wormsley had pea and cucumber soup," Wells said. "[It's a] wonder they didn't write down when they went to the bathroom."
Another wonder was all the hoopla over 54-year-old Donna Gianell, aka Juror No. 6. Initial credit for her dismissal went to Citi's defense for discovering her name on the credits of Michael Moore's cinematic screed "Capitalism: A Love Story." Wells found that in itself "scary in the context of this particular case."
He really didn't need to ask for her dismissal, however, as Gianell had already been turned in to Rakoff. A court reporter claimed to have overheard her discussing the case with other jurors while sharing an elevator. This no-no prompted a face-to-face with the judge, who apparently removed her from the case without actually telling her.
"I didn't know I had been released until I came home, and my husband said that's what a newspaper reporter had just told him," Gianell says in a phone interview. "I never even got to see my accuser."
But she did get to read lots of misinformation about herself, which we promised to correct: Gianell is a movement educator, for the record, with a following at a Manhattan Y. She hasn't performed in a circus since 1976, and it's her husband who twists balloons. She has never seen Moore's "Capitalism" and was not even aware of her film credit but attributes it to helping the director find a place to shoot.
As for her cameo in Terra Firma versus Citi, she knows about that, too. "This is my karma for not taking economics in high school," she says. -- Richard Morgan