While six jurors decide a lung-cancer victim's damage claims against three cigarette makers, the defense is gearing up its public relations engine.
Each day the jury deliberated last week, a public relations firm for two of the defendants reserved satellite time for a package of background videotape, expert commentary, graphics on 30 years of tobacco cases and live interviews with lawyers. The material is intended for use on television stations.The federal lawsuit waged by Antonio Cipollone over the 1984 death of his wife, Rose, at 58 has drawn heavy media coverage, and the tobacco companies have waged a major public relations offensive throughout the 41/2-month trial.
The jury deliberated last week for four days, beginning Tuesday. It took the weekend off and will return to the case Monday.
Lorillard Inc., Liggett Group Inc. and Philip Morris Inc. are accused of misleading the public about the dangers of cigarette smoking through advertising, public relations and inadequate research.
Anti-smoking advocates have hailed the trial as a gold mine of bad publicity for the $22 billion industry because of dozens of confidential company documents presented as evidence.
The documents spoke of a "gentlemen's agreement" not to conduct cancer research, of an industry "strategy" to create "doubt about the health charge without actually denying it," of a research program designed "so that (he) results can not harm" the industry.
The companies say the documents were taken out of context, that Mrs. Cipollone freely chose to smoke knowing the risks and that smoking is not a proven cancer cause.