Runaway Jury

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Runaway Jury
Runaway jury.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGary Fleder
Screenplay by
Based onThe Runaway Jury
by John Grisham
Produced by
CinematographyRobert Elswit
Edited by
Music byChristopher Young
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 17, 2003 (2003-10-17)
Running time
127 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$80.2 million[1]

Runaway Jury is a 2003 American legal thriller film directed by Gary Fleder and starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and Rachel Weisz. An adaptation of John Grisham's 1996 novel The Runaway Jury,[2] the film pits lawyer Wendell Rohr (Hoffman) against shady jury consultant Rankin Fitch (Hackman), who uses illegal means to stack the jury with people sympathetic to the defense. Meanwhile, a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game begins when juror Nicholas Easter (Cusack) and his girlfriend Marlee (Weisz) appear to be able to sway the jury into delivering any verdict they want in a trial against a gun manufacturer. The film was released October 17, 2003.


In New Orleans, a shooting takes place at a stock brokerage firm. Among the dead is Jacob Wood. The shooter was a failed day trader who apparently killed eleven people and wounded several others in the event. Two years later, with attorney Wendell Rohr, Jacob's widow Celeste takes Vicksburg Firearms to court on the grounds that the company's gross negligence led to her husband's death. During jury selection, jury consultant Rankin Fitch and his team communicate background information on each of the jurors through electronic surveillance to lead defense attorney Durwood Cable in the courtroom.

In the jury pool, Nicholas "Nick" Easter pretends to try to get himself excused from jury duty. Judge Frederick Harkin decides to give him a lesson in civic duty, and Fitch tells Cable that the judge has now given them no choice and that he must select Nick as a juror. Nick's congenial manner wins him acceptance from his fellow jurors, but Frank Herrera, a Marine veteran, takes an instant dislike to him.

A woman named Marlee makes an offer to Fitch and Rohr by phone: she will deliver the verdict to the first bidder. Rohr dismisses the offer, assuming it to be a tactic by Fitch to obtain a mistrial. Fitch asks for proof that she can deliver, though, which Nick provides by getting a juror expelled. By observing the jurors' behavior through concealed cameras, Fitch identifies Nick as the influencer and orders his apartment to be searched, finds nothing, but Nick almost catches Fitch's man red-handed in his flat. Marlee retaliates by getting one of Fitch's jurors bounced. Fitch then goes after three jurors with blackmail, leading one, Rikki Coleman, to attempt suicide. He also sends his men to find a concealed device in Nick's flat on which key information has been stored, after which they leave and set fire to the apartment. Nick shows the judge video footage of his apartment being searched the first time, and the judge orders the jury sequestered.

Rohr's key witness, a former Vicksburg employee, doesn't show up. After confronting Fitch, Rohr decides that he cannot win the case. He asks his firm's partners for $10 million to pay Marlee. Fitch sends an operative, Janovich, to kidnap Marlee, but she fights him off and raises the price to $15 million. On principle, Rohr changes his mind and refuses to pay. After the CEO of Vicksburg Firearms loses his temper under cross-examination as a witness and makes a bad impression on the jury, Fitch agrees to pay Marlee to be certain of the verdict.

Fitch's subordinate Doyle, who is investigating Nick, finds that Nick is, in fact, Jeff Kerr, a law school drop-out. He then travels to Gardner, Indiana, from where Jeff and his law school girlfriend Gabby (Marlee) both come. Doyle gently quizzes Gabby's mother who tells him that Gabby's sister died in a shooting years ago when she was in high school. At the time, the town had sued the gun manufacturer and lost; Fitch had helped the defense win the case. Doyle concludes that Nick and Marlee's offer is a set-up, and he calls Fitch, but it is too late, the money has been paid.

Nick receives confirmation of receipt of payment, and he makes a speech, asking them to review the facts, and says that they owe it to Celeste Wood to deliberate, much to the chagrin of Herrera, who launches into a rant against the plaintiff, which undermines his support. The gun manufacturer is found liable, with the jury awarding $110 million in general damages to Celeste Wood.

After the trial, Nick and Marlee confront Fitch with a receipt for the $15 million bribe which they will make public unless he retires. Fitch asks how they got the jury to vote for the plaintiff, to which Nick replies that he didn't; he just stopped Fitch from stealing the trial by getting the jury to vote with their hearts. They inform him that the $15 million will benefit the shooting victims in Gardner.



The film had been in pre-production since 1997. Directors slated to helm the picture included Joel Schumacher and Mike Newell, with the lead being offered to Edward Norton and Will Smith.[3] The novel's focus on big tobacco was retained until the 1999 film The Insider was released, necessitating a plot change from tobacco to gun companies.[3]


The film grossed $49,440,996 in the United States and $80,154,140 worldwide.[4]


Runaway Jury received generally positive reviews from critics. The film has a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site calling the film "an implausible but entertaining legal thriller."[5] On Metacritic, it has weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 38 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and stated that the plot to sell the jury to the highest-bidding party was the most ingenious device in the story because it avoided pitting the "evil" and the "good" protagonists directly against each other in a stereotypical manner, but it plunged both of them into a moral abyss.[8]

John Grisham said it was a "smart, suspenseful" movie, and was disappointed it made so little money.[9]


  1. ^ a b Runaway Jury Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Runaway Jury (2003) Film Review; Courtroom Confrontation With Lots of Star Power" The New York Times
  3. ^ a b The Runaway Jury
  4. ^ Runaway Jury - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information - The Numbers
  5. ^ "Runaway Jury". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Runaway Jury reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Search for 'Runaway Jury'". CinemaScore.
  8. ^ "'Runaway Jury' review", Roger Ebert
  9. ^ "Grisham v. Grisham", Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly, February 6, 2004

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