The end of the beginning

As the Conrad Black trial comes to an end, the question arises: has the prosecution proved its case? Certainly, David Radler was not the star witness he was meant to be. Some of his answers contradicted his earlier recollections and, in particular, he was made to look well aware of his sentencing arrangements even though he said he was in the dark when he cut his deal.

Yes, Black’s lawyer Eddie Greenspan seemed to score points making Radler look like a liar, but did he go too far? Did the jury tire of the tactic? Still, nobody likes a rat. Just ask any office whistle-blower how much fun it was to expose the truth and then try to remain among her peers.

And what was the impact of so many big name directors who looked silly admitting they hadn’t read what they signed. The jury, two-thirds of whom are middle-aged women, will shake their heads over that one. Isn’t that what financial advisors urge the “little people” to do? Read the fine print? And what the Hollinger directors missed wasn’t even the fine print, it was found on the front page of documents they didn’t even bother to browse.

But of all the revelations, strangest to me was an interview Greenspan gave mid-trial to the Globe and Mail about his legal career. He was at pains to point out that he’d been raised near the Canada-U.S. border and bemoaned the fact that if only his emigrating parents had settled a few miles away from where they actually did, he could have grown up in the U.S., practiced law in that country, and emulated his hero Clarence Darrow who performed so magnificently at the Scopes monkey trial.

Greenspan has not found the U.S. court system as welcoming. Indeed, he allowed as how he was looking forward to getting back to Canada where defence and prosecution tell each other well in advance which witnesses are coming and what information has been uncovered.

As to why did Lord Black not testify, there are only two explanations. Either Greenspan feels his case has been sufficiently made without his client having to take the stand or he feared what would happen during cross-examination. If I were a juror, after forty-seven days of proceedings, I would have liked to have heard about these weighty matters from the horse’s mouth.

For my part, I think he will be found innocent. But even if I am wrong, one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, an appeal will follow. As Winston Churchill said in 1942, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

UPDATE: I couldn’t have been more wrong about the verdict. The jury found Lord Black guilty on obstruction of justice and three counts of mail fraud. To cite Churchill again offering advice for the convicted felon, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

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