In New Orleans, a failed day trader at a stock brokerage firm shows up at his former workplace and opens fire on his former colleagues, then turns the gun on himself. Among the dead is Jacob Wood (McDermott). Two years later, with pro bono attorney Wendell Rohr (Hoffman), Jacob’s widow Celeste (Going) takes Vicksburg Firearms to court on the grounds that the company’s gross negligence led to her husband’s death.
During jury selection, jury consultant Rankin Fitch (Hackman) and his team communicate background information on each of the jurors to lead defense attorney Durwood Cable (Davison) in the courtroom through electronic surveillance.
In the jury pool, Nick Easter (Cusack), an electronics store clerk, tries to get himself excused from jury duty. Judge Frederick Harkin (McGill) decides to give Nick a lesson in civic duty and Fitch, despite having originally eliminated him from the list of potential jurors, tells Cable that the judge has sandbagged them, and that he must select Nick as a juror. Nick’s congenial manner wins him acceptance from his fellow jurors, with the exception of Frank Herrera (Curtis), a Marine veteran who takes an instant dislike to him.
However, further to Frank’s suspicions of Nick, it is revealed that he and his girlfriend Marlee (Weisz) do have an ulterior motive. The two seem to be grifters, and offer both Fitch and Rohr the verdict – to the first bidder. Fitch asks for proof that they can deliver. On the other hand, Rohr dismisses the offer, assuming it to be a defense tactic by Fitch to obtain a mistrial. Fitch orders Nick’s apartment raided, unfortunately with unsubstantial result. Marlee retaliates by getting one of Fitch’s jurors bounced. Fitch then goes after three jurors with blackmail, leading one of them, Rikki Coleman (Griffis), to attempt suicide. Nick shows Judge Harkin surveillance footage of his apartment being raided and the judge orders the jury sequestered.
Rohr loses a key witness (Greer) due to harassment, and after confronting Fitch, decides that he cannot win the case. He asks his firm’s partners for $10 million. Fitch sends an operative, Janovich (Serrano), to kidnap Marlee, but she fights him off and raises Fitch’s price to $15 million. On principle, Rohr changes his mind and refuses to pay. Despite knowing this, Fitch agrees to pay Marlee to be certain of the verdict. Nick receives confirmation of receipt of payment and he steers the jury deliberation in favour of the plaintiff, much to the chagrin of Herrera, who launches into a rant, confessing his contemptuous disregard of the law and case facts. Frank’s tirade undermines any support he may have had for dismissal of the lawsuit. The gun manufacturer is found liable, with the jury awarding $110 million in general damages to Celeste Wood.
Meanwhile, Doyle (Searcy), a Fitch subordinate, tracks down Nick’s history in the rural town of Gardner, Indiana, where he discovers that Nick is really Jeff Kerr, a talented former law student drop-out, and that Marlee’s real name is Gabby Brandt. Gabby’s sister died in a school shooting. The town of Gardner sued the gun manufacturer and Fitch helped to win the case for the defense, bankrupting the town of Gardner. Doyle concludes that Nick and Marlee’s intent is a set-up, and he frantically calls Fitch, but it is too late.
After the trial, Nick and Marlee confront Fitch with a receipt for the $15 million bribe and demand that he retire. They inform him that the $15 million will benefit the shooting victims in the town of Gardner. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runaway_Jury