A Blast from the Bench: He Chewed on Ice Cubes and Rolled His Eyes, but Jackson Ran the Trial Deftly

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During a break in the Microsoft trial this summer, Thomas Penfield Jackson, the judge presiding over the case, found himself forced to share a cab with three reporters after a rainstorm. When asked how it felt to find his body language analyzed in the next day's paper, he said, "I try to remain as Sphinx-like as possible."

He didn't succeed. For anyone sitting in the courtroom during the epic antitrust trial, Judge Jackson's denunciation of the company last week should come as no surprise. From the outset of the trial in October 1998, the U.S. District Court judge was often perturbed at the software giant--and frequently failed to conceal his scorn. There was the eye rolling at Bill Gates's evasive videotaped testimony. There were the incredulous head shakes as Microsoft executives tried to disavow incriminating e-mails. When Microsoft lawyers complained about the way Gates's testimony was being used (piecemeal over many days), the judge said, "I think the problem is with your witness, not with the way in which his testimony is being presented." During testimony, the judge regularly munched ice cubes.

While the Microsoft affair is undoubtedly the highest-profile case of Jackson's career, it isn't the first time the Harvard Law School graduate has made waves. After presiding over the case against former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry, which ended in a meager misdemeanor count of drug possession, he publicly criticized the jury. …