Can it be? Do I spy a yoni egg in Lady Justice’s girly bits? The judicial goddess was on Gwyneth Paltrow’s side on Thursday, and rarely has the legal system looked so chic.
A jury found Paltrow not liable for a crash that took place at a Utah ski resort in 2016, capping off an eventful and plot twist–filled eight-day trial (and seven-year saga). A retired optometrist named Terry Sanderson was suing Paltrow for $300,000 in damages, alleging that she ran into him while skiing and caused him severe injuries. Paltrow countersued for $1, contending that Sanderson ran into her, not the other way around. After almost two weeks of incredibly extensive testimony, the jury took only a few hours to deliberate before coming to their verdict. Now Paltrow, whose net worth before the trial was estimated to be $200 million, is $1 richer. Gwynnocent!
Most of the things you can actually buy with a dollar are items of food Paltrow would never eat, like slices of pizza, candy bars, or ramen noodles, so the world will watch with interest to see how she spends her earnings. (Paltrow was also seeking attorney’s fees, but her lawyer indicated that the judge in the case will decide privately what happens with those.)
It’s a curious thing that Paltrow, one of the most rarefied celebrities in the world, has ended up, for now at least, cast in the role of populist hero. A jury of her peers decided to believe the Vagina Candle Kid herself over a retiree who does not sit atop his own wellness empire. And it wasn’t just the jury: Paltrow looked to be winning in the court of public opinion too. These things are difficult to quantify, but when I glanced at the results of a (surely very unscientific) poll of livestream viewers that appeared alongside the Law&Crime Network’s YouTube feed, at one point it had 76 percent of voters saying Sanderson was at fault. Commentators also seemed to be backing Paltrow. Call her the people’s princess.
This is not to say the absurdities of the trial were lost on the general public. Much of the media coverage of the case focused on Paltrow’s expensive courtroom attire, some going on about how out-of-touch it made her appear, others claiming it as a strategic coup. Paltrow did look great, and appropriate too, though it’s up for debate how much of this was brilliant scheming and how much of it was her being permanently beautiful and looking good in clothes.
There was also no shortage of jokes about Paltrow’s Goop-y persona, something this article has been complicit in too. But the jury turned out to be capable of holding two things in their heads at the same time: that Paltrow can be ridiculous and that she was, as her legal team argued, caught up in a frivolous lawsuit that targeted her for her celebrity status and deep pockets.
The actor-entrepreneur’s case was helped along by the plaintiff making himself difficult to feel sorry for, never more so than in an apparent reference to Jeffrey Epstein he made on Wednesday, when out of nowhere he spoke about people “molesting children on an island.” This came alongside the defense’s withering slideshow of photos of Sanderson traveling around the world in the years after the accident, looking a lot like someone whose health wasn’t devastated by Gwyneth Paltrow crashing into him—a true highlight of the case.
Paltrow’s side had a lot going for it, which evidently was enough to overcome her very strange choice in lawyers. Steve Owens seemed blundering throughout the trial, and more than one person even wondered if he was drunk during his closing statement. There are no actual signs that he was drunk—“absent-minded professor” just seems to be his M.O. He had so many notable quotables that I hope someone performs the whole thing as a monologue one day, but for now I’ll name just a few favorites. There was the callback to his opening statement: “My wife said ‘Don’t wave the dollar,’ and I’m not waving the dollar,” he said toward the beginning, doing the exact opposite of letting the jury forget his very silly use of a dollar bill as a prop last week. Then there was his description of trying to talk Paltrow out of taking the lawsuit to court: “You can’t even look at your phone,” he said he warned her of the absolute hell that is sitting in a courtroom, but she courageously pressed forward anyway. (And she did look at her phone at least once.)
And who could forget the immortal “Apple was hangry for french fries”? I could try to describe the context—Owens was recounting the story of the crash using some mesmerizing graphic reenactments, and trying to explain where Paltrow’s daughter was standing—but the truth is, it makes no more sense in context. There is no reason that Owens had to tell us that Apple was hangry for french fries, but he did anyway, and that is what was so beautiful about this trial.
Another one of Paltrow’s lawyers, James Egan, had a decidedly less peculiar manner than Owens, so obviously a bunch of the people watching the trial developed crushes on him. Anything he said was accompanied by a cascade of heart and heart-eyes emojis in the Law&Crime live chat, the denizens of which dubbed Egan “Clark Kent.” “Sorry girls James is married with a new baby,” one user wrote in the chat, breaking hearts across the land.
Sanderson’s side’s closing statements were most notable for the very, er, expressive faces they caused Paltrow to make. Her facial expressions continued to be one of the main draws when the verdict itself was read. Though she couldn’t always hold in her disgust during the trial, she did a great job not appearing to gloat when she won. She nodded solemnly as the judge told the jury they were the lifeblood of the American justice system. As she ducked out of the courtroom, she touched Sanderson’s shoulder and whispered something. I was hoping it would remain an intriguing mystery for years to come, à la the end of Lost in Translation, but supposedly she said, “I wish you well.” Smooth, you must admit.
Après-trial, I’m expecting to feel a little bereft. Two weeks ago, I had never been skiing, and I never imagined I would become emotionally invested in the outcome of a trial about an accident involving the same. Now I’ve spent so much time watching ski instructors testify that I think I’m qualified to run my own resort. I also think I have a pretty good grasp of neurology and am available to serve as an expert witness. Call me! This trial has given me—and all of us—so much. It’s a testament to Paltrow’s powers as a celebrity that she seems to have gotten through it all unscathed. May her triumph make it so no one has to suffer the loss of half a day of skiing ever again.