By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Every once in a while, popular culture rediscovers the idea that trial consultants exist. In 1995, it was the O.J. Simpson trial, then in 2003 it was the John Grisham novel turned movie, Runaway Jury. In the years between and since, that attention has been sparked periodically during media saturated trials like Phil Spector, Enron, and Casey Anthony. During those moments, my profession gets a little attention, but also gets a pretty healthy dose of distortion. Either based on gaps in understanding or based on the need to raise the entertainment value, the media-curated image of what a trial consultant does rarely comes close to the practical reality. And looking at the advance-publicity for a new CBS series, we might be due for another round of attention and distortion. “Bull” is a new series starring Michael Weatherly (formerly of NCIS) based on daytime talk-show personality Dr. Phil McGraw’s early career as a trial consultant with Courtroom Sciences, Inc.
In the series trailer, the character, Dr. Jason Bull, is introduced, complete with smirk and evil-laugh, as “an expert on human psychology,” and “the best trial consultant in the business.” The complete 4:50 trailer leaves us with two broad conclusions. The first is that it appears to be one of the biggest spoiler-previews in history, revealing not only the verdict at the end of the big case, but also several moments that seem designed to be the surprising plot twists along the way. The second is that this series appears to be as steeped in misrepresentation as most other media portrayals of trial consultants, or perhaps more so. I have written previously (here, here, and here) on correcting the myths, but this trailer presents a few fresh ones. In this post, I’ll break down the trailer in order to call out and correct some of the larger misrepresentations of what trial consultants do.