Blindman's Bluff

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Last Updated on February 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1341

In September, Skinner approves the eight-million-dollar settlement, but Keating wants a motion for a new trial to remove the onus from Grace. Schlichtmann begrudgingly agrees. He starts to believe there was never going to be a phase two—that the judge was against them all along.

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That afternoon, Schlichtmann goes to Woburn and celebrates with the families, but not everyone is happy. Revered Young feels that justice has not been served and that Schlichtmann has botched the case. The unease continues when Schlichtmann explains the financial dispersal. Some families are upset that Schlichtmann is getting more than them. Anne and Zona ask him about the $2.6 million in fees. Schlichtmann suggests they hire an accountant to go through the invoices, and he would honor whatever decision the accountant made. The exploration shows that Schlichtmann footed far more than $2.6 million. When the debts are settled, Schlichtmann is left with thirty thousand dollars.

Before leaving for Hawaii, Schlichtmann tells the Woburn families he will appeal the Beatrice verdict. While he’s gone, the EPA releases a report that shows both Grace and Beatrice contaminated the Aberjona aquifer, and that Beatrice was “the largest contributor to the pollution of the wells.” Nesson offers to write the appeal himself while Schlichtmann is gone.

Nesson asks Schlichtmann to look over the appeal. Schlichtmann is impressed and takes a few days filling in the missing details. Reopening the case quickly throws Schlichtmann back into his obsessive ways. He ignores the fact that the firm is slowly slipping back into debt from back taxes. On June 7th, his prayers are answered when he receives a call from Jacobs offering a two-hundred-thousand-dollar settlement. Schlichtmann declines, calling himself “a glutton for punishment.”

Schlichtmann sends Gordon to the EPA office in hopes of finding something new. He needs to prove that Riley was responsible for and cognizant of Beatrice’s release of TCE into the Woburn waterway. Gordon thinks he has reached a dead end until he finds a new file in the project director’s office.

Gordon brings this “Yankee” file to Schlichtmann. It contains a 60-page report titled “Hydrogeologic Investigation of the John J. Riley Tanning Company.” It was completed three years before the trial’s start date and was commissioned by Riley himself. The findings match Pinder’s testimony, and the samples match the material Professor Drobinski found. If Schlichtmann can prove this evidence was withheld, he can launch a new trial.

Schlichtmann, Nesson, and Facher are back in court. Schlichtmann takes the group through the Yankee document and explains how the information would have transformed his original case. Skinner asks Facher if he has ever seen the report in question. Facher admits he saw it briefly before a deposition from Riley’s personal lawyer, Mary Ryan. Nesson pushes Skinner on this point, and Skinner begins to yell. He refuses to hear more testimony but doesn’t make a ruling.

By the new year, Schlichtmann is homeless and moves into the office. The firm borrows more money from Uncle Pete and still owes money to the IRS.

Nine weeks later, Skinner decides the evidence wouldn’t have affected the case, but Schlichtmann did correctly ask for the document. However, Skinner doesn’t feel that any intentional or malicious behavior has ensued. Skinner blames Schlichtmann for pushing the case to trial when Facher asked for more time.

Nesson decides to argue at the Court of Appeals. Schlichtmann feels he does well, but significant time passes without a ruling. In December, the Appeals Court states that Judge Skinner “abused his discretion,” and he is rebuked for doing so. However, they take an “unusual” step and send the case back to Skinner for...

(The entire section contains 1341 words.)

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