“Mock trials,” Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan and Gawker

“Yet unlike Denton, Thiel wasn’t content to simply ballpark his odds. He wanted proof that the case had the legs to go the distance. What can we know that they don’t know? Where’s our edge? He spent nearly $100,000 for his lawyers to conduct not one but two mock trials in Florida. Gather up a bunch of prospective jurors, pay them by the hour, and run the case in front of them. Judge every reaction, learn everything they like and don’t like. No self-serving assumptions, no generous assessment of our strengths. The purpose? As Harder presents their case to these jurors in a nondescript hotel conference room—he wants the hard facts. What’s our worst case and how does it stack up against their best case? Where is Gawker strong and where are we weak? What do we have to do to beat them? What they find is that even ceding certain advantages to Gawker, Hogan’s case plays very well.

It is with a kind of nasty glee, more characteristic of Gawker than anyone else, that Thiel’s team would recount to me, several times, a discovery which they would exploit, which very well might have been the deciding factor in the entire case. In those expensive mock juries, they had discovered that their case played exceedingly well to a very specific type of person. ‘It became very clear that the kind of jurors we wanted were overweight women. Most people can’t empathize with a sex tape, but overweight women are sensitive about their bodies and feel like they have been bullied on the internet. …'”

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