There have been many superior movies whose subject is the courtroom: Inherit the Wind, The Caine Mutiny, Judgment at Nuremburg, And Justice for All, The Verdict. I even liked A Few Good Men, although I know any number of discriminating types who would gag at my even mentioning it. The point is all of these references and more drift around somewhere in the ether between our collective ears. They influence how we think about trials happening in real time. O.J. Simpson’s trial, it could be argued, was about the corrupt cop—a standard lynchpin of legal drama.
So here we are, less than a third of the way through U.S. vs. Conrad Black et al., and the scribes have already begun to write about their various “narrative arcs.” Among those who’ve swallowed the defence argument whole (Mark Steyn, Peter Worthington), Black proved his case in the first week when government witnesses failed to produce the smoking gun, which given their standard of proof would have involved producing photographs of Black tying some poor damsel to the tracks, all the while cackling maniacally and twirling his waxed moustache. Otherwise, whatever the prosecution turns up, Black’s champions repeat essentially the same mantra: “This so-called trial is a mockery of justice. The prosecution has produced a steady stream of comic half-wits whose so-called testimony is a tissue of half-truths—the sad flotsam of an elaborate smear campaign.” Of course, just ’cause they’re the ones saying it doesn’t make it wrong. I mean, let’s face it, Darren Sukonick makes Martin Short’s wormy Nathan Thurm look positively forthcoming. And as for Fred Creasey, Monty Python’s lion tamer skit comes to mind.
Still, it’s early days and despite what’s been characterized as a rout, here are a couple of points offered advisedly and on eggshells:
The Fred and Darren show wasn’t there to make the knock-down argument that Black et al. were carrying on a systematic “kleptocracy.” (How would they know? They’re the hired help.) Rather, it was—in much the same way the prosecution used the vendors—to suggest misgivings about deals that Radler will have to prove were crooked. Then arrives the prosecution’s hammer. James R. Thompson III, former chairman of the Hollinger International audit committee, will descend with the gravitas of a four-term Illinois governor and claim that Conrad Black hurt not only the shareholders of Hollinger International but, by God (through his proxy stripping of the Sun-Times), the citizens of the Great Prairie State, Land of Lincoln.
Let’s see where the story’s at after that, and if it’s still a lay-down for his Lordship, I’ll be the first one throwing rose petals before him and sweeping up after.