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Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

The last day of the trial week (in the final stages of a three-month ordeal) saw a lot of giddy school’s-out behaviour among journos, lawyers and defendants alike. During an unscheduled break due to an illness among the jurors, Boultbee lawyer Pat Tuite, prosecutor Jeff Cramer and a couple of local scribes leaned into a corner happily chewing over details of the so-called Family Secrets mob trial starting 13 floors above them. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mary Wisniewski cracked wise with her editor over her cellphone, speculating that the juror’s illness probably resulted from the clams at a local eatery. “Though I’m not sure we can reliably report that without incurring a lawsuit.” Earlier in the courtroom, as Peter Atkinson’s lawyer unfolded yet another cardboard chart demonstrating Atkinson’s innocence, Conrad Black passed a note to his daughter and shot her a comic glance as she read it. This morning’s press jottings reflect this general mood of Indian summer before the harsh reality of deliberation and verdict. In the Star, Rosie DiManno bypassed Black entirely and spent the day at Family Secrets. The Guardian’s Andrew Clark compared Black to Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling on the half-year anniversary of his incarceration. Clark mischievously, I think, suggests that Black has less of a leg to stand on:

“In the Enron scandal, Skilling and Lay went through extraordinary accounting contortions to hide the extent of mounting problems at the energy trading behemoth. They shovelled losses into off-balance-sheet vehicles in the belief that they could turn things round.

“Their crimes were motivated by pride and by arrogance. They were propping up their own lifestyles and there was some evidence of insider dealing. But in their own twisted way, they were also trying to save their company—and, presumably, to avoid the catastrophic pain that its failure would entail.

“If Black is convicted, he cannot possibly argue that any of his alleged crimes were misguided attempts on any level to support Hollinger. Or that he was swept along by events with a momentum of their own.

“The charges against him amount to straightforward theft, motivated—the U.S. government claims—by personal greed and a desire to maintain a luxurious transatlantic lifestyle of antique-stuffed apartments, champagne and caviar, diamond rings and exotic holidays.

“If Black is guilty, he is a thief—pure and simple—even though the amount involved is far smaller than the sums tied up in Enron’s web of corruption.”

Clark’s argument is elegant sophistry, but sophistry nonetheless—a reminder that when it comes to journalistic cruelty, the Brits are best of breed.

Enron’s Skilling completes six months behind bars [Guardian]Radler’s testimony held up as proof [Chicago Tribune]Conrad trial lumbers on [Toronto Sun]Don’t lump co-accused with Black, jury told [Toronto Sun]Chicago trials tantalizingly similar [Toronto Star]No evidence against Black co-accused, court told [Globe and Mail]

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