Over the course of two days in and around Room 1241, there were several opportunities to view Lord Black in his somewhat captive state. He spoke twice: once to confirm publicly that he had in fact reviewed a document entered into evidence and the second time to waive his right to testify at trial. The rest of the time, he seemed to oscillate between engagement and remove. As his mien quickened, he displayed more and more of the theatrical quality that justifies his charismatic reputation. He’s obviously made an impression around the courtroom. While the press remains somewhat wary, Black has an easy, collegial, if slightly paternal, relation with several of the U.S. marshals who enforce the protocols in St. Eve’s courtroom. Walking out of court on Monday, he wrapped a paw around one, called him by name, and in a conspiratorial whisper asked, “Have you ever heard so much nonsense in your life?”
At other times, though, Black seemed to recede deep within himself as the proceedings whirled around him. While a dozen or so lawyers gathered at side bar arguing some fine point of evidentiary procedure, any of which could be a key factor in determining his fate, Black sat alone. At breaks and at the lunch hour, the court having risen to mark the exit of the jury from the room (a symbolic paean to the constitutional power of “the people”), he stood with the rest, then watched as the entire contingent of lawyers on both sides directed their attention to the bench. It’s at these points during the day that the judge entertains special pleadings of various kinds and announces her decisions on the umpteen requests put before her. The room seems drawn as if by a magnet, straining to hear her every word. Black leans forward like the rest, with his splayed right hand forming a pyramid on the table. His helplessness is almost palpable. He is in every sense the subject of and subject to these proceedings.
This was never more evident than when Black stepped to the front of the courtroom accompanied by Ed Genson to receive his admonition concerning his right not to testify, and the room went dead. Black stood motionless as he was reminded that the constitution of the United States guarantees that his not testifying will in no way prejudice the jury against him. Then, asked formally whether he would in fact testify, Black hesitated for just a moment before declaring, “I decline my right to testify.” One sensed the weight of his situation bearing down on him and him alone.