Mistrial Sought in Tobacco Case
Feb. 11, 2000
MIAMI (AP) _ A black attorney for the tobacco industry on Thursday accused a smokers' attorney of ``blatant racial pandering'' to a six-member jury with four blacks, and asked for a mistrial in the 19-month case.
Stanley Rosenblatt, attorney for smokers in a massive class-action trial, said he was ``just stunned and highly insulted'' by the charge from Brown & Williamson attorney Andrew Upshaw.
Circuit Judge Robert Kaye called for an end to animosities and took the mistrial motion under advisement along with several other motions.
``This court is strongly of the opinion that race has no place in this trial or this courtroom,'' the judge said. ``To create an issue is terribly wrong and won't be permitted.''
During cross-examination of an industry witness, Upshaw said Rosenblatt cited news articles about the lung-cancer death of singer Nat King Cole and mentioned the country of Sudan.
``The evil genie of race has already been released in this courtroom. We can't put it back in the bottle,'' Upshaw said.
Rosenblatt, who is white, said the accusation was ridiculous.
``If I were a lawyer of African-American descent, I would worry about my people who were killed and mutilated by the tobacco companies,'' he said.
The trial is proceeding before the same jury that in July found the nation's five largest cigarette makers produced a product that causes emphysema, lung cancer and other illnesses. In this phase, the jury is hearing evidence to determine what, if any, damages should be awarded.
The industry has warned that the jury might award a crippling verdict of $300 billion.
The defendants are: R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Philip Morris Inc., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Lorillard Tobacco Co., Liggett Group Inc., the Council for Tobacco Research and the Tobacco Institute.