Put Your Eds Together
Yesterday was a banner—if somewhat disjointed—day for the defence. Eddie Greenspan’s presentation in the morning had a certain formal elegance. Standing behind a lectern, reading from a prepared text, he began with a pleading rarely heard in an American courtroom: “May it please the court.” This was yet another example of Greenspan’s wry detachment from the American judicial system, a pose he has maintained throughout. (For instance, the absence of the Crown notwithstanding, he bows to the bench on each occasion he enters the courtroom.) Beyond that, the substance of his nearly three hours—set out in a grave (if slightly fusty) tone—turned on the “awesome” responsibility weighing on the jury. He reminded his audience several different ways of the importance of the presumption of innocence, of reasonable doubt, and that each of the jurors must weigh the evidence for him or herself and not be swayed by the majority opinion (a theme that reminds the listener that for the defence, a lone voice is sometimes the difference between conviction and a hung jury).
Greenspan hammered away, again and again and again, that David Radler and the three graces of the audit committee, Burt, Kravis and Thompson, are the lyingest liars that ever lied in this or any other Yankee courtroom. Greenspan impugned almost every aspect of their various testimonies. “One thing we know about David Radler is that he has a knack for lying… He lies about lying.” And, in what was perhaps the quote of the day, Greenspan referred to the Audit Three as “Olympic level synchronized skimmers,” and that given the implication of their testimony, they were “either Olympic skimmers or Olympic liars.” Minutes later, James Bone of The Times of London announced to a gaggle of colleagues that the Olympic skimming line “had to have been written by Conrad Black. It sounds just like him.”
In the afternoon, Edward Genson took over, and his style couldn’t have been more at odds with the baronial Greenspan. He speaks in folksy half-sentences dotted with ain’ts and don’ts, as in “That don’t wash.” Where Greenspan is grandly abstract, Genson beavers away at specifics. Genson took great pleasure in dispelling the government’s contention that at one point, Black had, within a matter of days if not hours, spent exactly the amount he had taken in from a non-compete on such luxury items as the Graff diamond and the antique brooch. He pointed out that the government had selected from a list that included items bought prior to the date the non-compete money was awarded. Using his favourite leitmotif, he announced, “The fact of the matter is…the government is manipulating the facts. It’s not right and it’s not fair.”
But as the afternoon wore on, Genson seemed to bog down, losing his place in arguments by heading off on tangents and failing to return to the point. Eventually he asked for a break, and after 10 minutes, clearly in physical distress, he asked that the trial break early for the day. This morning, Genson returned refreshed and St. Eve made a point of offering him extra time beyond his allotted hour—practically unprecedented for the obsessively punctual judge. He made good use of the time, his droning replaced by sharpness and wit, drawing laughs for his comically self-deprecating manner. In the end, the jury was leaning in as he summed up, dropping his voice to a humility-laced near-whisper. “Conrad Black is not guilty,” he said. “…[H]e lived the dream until this nightmare visited him. Being wealthy doesn’t make you a bad man. In this case, the government overreached and manipulated the facts. …Whatever you do, do him justice.”