‘Day of Reckoning:’ Jury Deliberations Begin in Monsanto Trial Following Dramatic Closing Arguments

August 8, 2018 | Julie Wilson

Organic Consumers Association

Jurors will begin deliberations today in the case of Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto Co. following a heated showdown of closing arguments from attorneys on both sides. The deliberations are expected to last one to two days.

The plaintiff, Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma four years ago, claims Monsanto hid evidence that the active ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, caused his cancer. The case is the first of hundreds of similar lawsuits to go to trial, under a California law that expedites legal cases filed by terminally ill plaintiffs.

Reports from inside the courtroom highlight the difficulty of being a juror in this case, where attorneys for both the plaintiff and Monsanto insist that science is on their side.

“So much science, so much spin—who will the jurors believe?” tweeted Carey Gillam, research director of U.S. Right to Know and author of “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.”

In closing arguments, which followed four weeks of testimony, an attorney for plaintiff Johnson accused Monsanto of denying Johnson the right to have a choice about his health and the health of his children when he used Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.

“Today is their day of reckoning!” said Johnson’s attorney.

“My client deserves the truth,” Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner told the jurors. “The evidence is actually overwhelming. Other than hiding behind the EPA, Monsanto has quite literally no defense.”

Attorneys for Johnson suggested that Monsanto failed to bring a single human being from the company to look the jurors in the eyes and state what they did, for fear of committing perjury.

Johnson’s attorneys asked the jury to penalize Monsanto for $373 million in damages, or the interest accrued on their cash on-hand in the years since Johnson developed cancer. “That’s a number that makes people change their ways,” said one of Johnson’s attorneys.

The amount includes $2.53 million in damages for lost wages, medical expenses and other costs; $37 million in damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress; and $1 million for each year of Johnson’s life expectancy.

In closing arguments attorneys for Monsanto tried to discredit the expert witnesses who testified on Johnson’s behalf, insisting that the “real experts” in the trial are those who side with Monsanto and say glyphosate does not cause cancer.

Monsanto attorneys also told the jury that the cause of plaintiff Johnson’s cancer is unknown.

The landmark case has kept Monsanto and its bad reputation in the public eye as the company grows increasingly desperate to defend its flagship Roundup weedkiller from human and environmental health concerns.

On August 7, a federal judge in Brazil suspended the use of glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. The judge ruled that new products containing glyphosate could not be registered in the country, and any existing registrations would be suspended for the next 30 days pending a toxicology review by the government.

The move is expected to hit Monsanto where it hurts. Monsanto is deeply invested in Brazil where its glyphosate-resistant genetically modified soybeans are planted on a large-scale. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of soybeans.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.