Conrad Black Book Club, A Matter of Principle: Chapter 12 (wherein Conrad goes to court)

Conrad Black Book Club, A Matter of Principle: Chapter 12 (wherein Conrad goes to court)


As his trial approaches, Conrad Black is wringing his hands. While his lawyer, Eddie Greenspan, is the finest legal mind in Canada, Black is concerned that Greenspan lacks the requisite knowledge of the American justice system.

Black, Barbara and his daughter Alana (who Black weirdly describes as “beguiling”) trek to Chicago for the trial. Their ties to hotelier Izzy Sharp land them a suite in the Ritz-Carlton (yes, Sharp owns the Four Seasons, but he hooks Black up with his peeps at the Ritz nonetheless—anything for the dear Baron). But they’re still poor—the hotel room has “no special grandeur,” only a galley kitchen and rooms in which Conrad and Barbara can each do their work. Because there’s plenty to do: Conrad finishes his Nixon biography, and Barbara purchases a Hungarian puli that she names George Black, after Conrad’s father. Aw.

The action gets into sitcom territory when Black attends jury selection, where he’s flabbergasted by the pedestrian intellect of his potential peers, including a “gigantic, moustachioed woman” who claims to believe that everyone accused is guilty. Black is aghast: if he weren’t so preoccupied with his trial, he would totally go Henry Higgins and transform the riff raff into the bon ton.

The trial commences and is predictably boring—we admit that our eyes glazed over. Black watches as the prosecutor, Eric Sussman, manages to foil every motion Greenspan tries to make (seeing as the latter is so green when it comes to American law and all).

Despite Greenspan, however, everything is coming up Conrad. Those involved with the community newspaper sales admit that they only dealt with David Radler and that Black wasn’t involved, and the non-competition payments are repeatedly classified by the witnesses as “conditions of closing,” which suggests that they were all above board. Even Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente tells Black that she doesn’t think he’s going to go to prison (even though she hoped that he would).

In the words of the Lord:

On the potential jurors: “I was unprepared for such a procession of mainly monosyllabic and listless people.”

On the hobbies and interests of the potential jurors: “Most were low-brow magazines, soap operas, bowling, bingo, gardening, and attending to dogs. There did not appear to be as many as half of them who had ever read a book, played a game of chess, or watched a serious newscast.”

On his true-blue fan club “Friends gave me several parting dinners and an avalanche of messages arrived, many accompanied by prayers and uplifting poems. There was a Conrad Black Fan Club website and a sequence of supportive T-shirts: ‘Conrad Will Win,’ ‘Go Conrad,’ ‘Free Conrad,’ and so forth.”