|VIDEO| How Katherine Hacker's Video Game-Inspired Demonstrative Helped Clear Monsanto in Roundup Trial

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Mar 25, 2024 10:28:48 AM

Regardless of which side of the courtroom you’re on, the right demonstratives in openings can be powerful tools to frame the message at the heart of your case. And in a trial last year against Monsanto over claims the company’s “Roundup” weed killer caused a woman’s cancer, a Katherine Hacker demonstrative that took inspiration from an iconic video game laid the groundwork for a major defense verdict. 

Sharlean Gordon claims that she developed cancer from exposure to glyphosate in Roundup. Key to the trial was what, if any, link glyphosate has to cancer in humans. 

Roundup cases typically turn on hours of testimony regarding scientific studies and reports issued by various agencies across decades. That information can be complex and confusing to jurors. And while jurors are often familiar with Roundup as a product, they typically have little understanding of how it actually works. 

In her opening for the defense, Hacker, of Bartlit Beck, tells jurors she wants to explain exactly how Roundup kills weeds. “I’ll give you a spoiler alert now,” Hacker tells jurors. “It does not give the plant cancer.”

Hacker then introduces jurors to an animation of how the weed killer deprives plants of the ability to make protein. “I refer to it as the ‘Pac-Man’ slide,” Hacker says, “for what may be obvious reasons.”

And indeed, the plant enzyme, as represented in Hacker’s animation, resembles a blue version of the dot-chomping video game legend. Hacker then walks jurors through how that enzyme takes plant molecules and uses them to form amino acids that ultimately turn into protein for the plant, which in this animation is a dandelion.


As Hacker explains the process, the Pac-Man-shaped enzyme chomps and flips back and forth, taking molecules and sending them to be turned into protein. The iconic shape takes something that is likely alien and confusing to jurors (a plant enzyme) and turns it into something with which they can connect and remember, while the motion of the animation keeps jurors' attention. 

Roundup's glyphosate, Hacker explains, blocks the plant enzyme from taking in the necessary molecules to make protein, starving the plant to death.

“Here we see that, once the glyphosate blocks our 'Pac-Man,' blocks that enzyme, the plant can no longer continue making amino acids, and can no longer produce protein.” At this, the animation shows spray from a bottle of Roundup blocking the enzyme’s wedge-shaped mouth. “And then our dandelion wilts and dies,” she adds, as the animation concludes with the dandelion’s death.

“This is a process that only happens in plants because they have to have this unique process to make their proteins,” Hacker says. “We can see that the glyphosate does not do anything to change the cell in any way. It does not alter the DNA inside the plant, it does not do anything we think of as cancer.”

In a trial filled with potentially confusing scientific information, introducing the product at the heart of the case with a simple, memorable animation that jurors can easily identify with built a memorable cornerstone for Hacker’s ultimate argument that glyphosate does not cause cancer in humans. And jurors ultimately cleared the company, in a case where plaintiff’s attorneys sought $36 million in damages. 

Video of Hacker’s opening is part of a playlist focused on the powerful use of demonstratives in opening statements, now available to CVN video archive subscribers. 

That playlist features trial video of top attorneys, including Hacker, Bell Law Firm’s Lloyd Bell, Morgan & Morgan’s Keith Mitnik, and more, using demonstratives in openings to set up some of their biggest trial wins. It’s a repository of demonstrative techniques attorneys can use in their own cases. 

Watch the complete clip of Katherine Hacker's use of demonstratives in openings now.

Browse the "Demonstratives in Opening Statements" playlist now. 

And this playlist is just a preview of a new feature CVN is proud to launch soon: a library of playlists featuring examples of winning trial techniques curated from our vast library. It’s a veritable trial technique toolbox, distilling our thousands of hours of video into the footage you’re looking to learn from for your next trial. From video examples of how to present before-and-after witnesses, to the best ways to cross-examine standard-of-care experts, our new playlist library will help you more efficiently prepare for trial. 

Questions about this new feature? Email Arlin Crisco at 

Related information

Browse our "Demonstratives in Opening Statements" playlist now. 

Watch the full trial: Gordon v. Monsanto

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Topics: Products Liability, Missouri, Gordon v. Monsanto