Chicago-Kent College of Law:  Home Page

Legal Blog

Was Shelley v. Kraemer Incorrectly Decided? Some N...

Who Owns Your Body?

<< Home

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Top Ten Moments During Closing Arguments of US v. Conrad Black, et al

The Conrad Black trial raged for 15 weeks in the federal courtroom of Judge Amy St. Eve. At the end of closing arguments, the judge said that it was a pleasure to work with so many highly skilled lawyers, and it is easy to understand why. The four defendants and the government were represented by some of the best American and Canadian criminal lawyers to be found.

To start his closing arguments, Ron Safer, a lawyer representing one of the defendants said that people sometimes confuse him with David Letterman. He then displayed a Top Ten List of evidence items that he said did not fit the government's theory of the case. Later, when he identified an eleventh item on the list, he said it was the "Top Ten (or so) list."

With a nod to Ron Safer and David Letterman, here are The Top Ten (or so) Moments During the Closing Arguments of US v. Black.

The charges in a nutshell: the four defendants were executives at a huge newspaper company and were accused of defrauding the company. A fifth executive, David Radler pled guilty and testified for the government.

Julie Ruder for the United States

# 11. Julie Ruder, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, delivered closing arguments for the government. Her tone was usually stern and angry, but she knew when to choose a different tone to be more effective. When talking about a "young associate" from an outside law firm that found suspicious transactions in the company's books, for example, she changed her inflection and cadence to cast him as the unwitting hero of the story.

# 10. Another time, her tone reflected disappointment instead of anger. She was talking about the government's star witness, David Radler, who testified for the government as part of a plea deal. She put pictures of Radler and the main defendant, Conrad Black, next to each other on the screen and contrasted their behavior. They both defrauded the company, and they both lied, but Radler accepted responsibility for his crimes by pleading guilty. She never said that Black had not accepted responsibility, but her inflection and cadence perfectly implied that Black was an irresponsible and evil man. She reinforced this by asking the jury to "Look into Mr. Black’s mind and heart."

Edward Genson for Conrad Black

# 9. When Edward Genson started, he was stuttering and hesitant. The effect was not weakness; instead it made me think that he was straining under the incredible burden of defending an innocent man.

Edward Greenspan, also for Conrad Black

# 8. Conrad Black is Canadian and his defense team included a top-notch Canadian lawyer, Edward Greenspan. Defense laywers like to establish a connection with the jury and remind the jury that their verdict will have serious consequences for their client. All six of the defense lawyers talked about the burden of proof, but Greenspan had a slightly different spin. He reminded the jury that he is Canadian, but he is also from Niagara Falls--our shared border--and we have "shared values." One of those values is that defendants are innocent until proven guilty because everyone is equal in the courtroom. This means equal justice for people you like and people you don’t like.

Eric Sussman delivered the rebuttal for the government

# 7. Sussman had a great line and he wanted to emphasize it. He leaned over to the microphone on the podium and said very slowly and clearly, "We do not care how Conrad Black spends his money; we care how he spends the shareholder's money." Great line and great delivery.

Michael Schacter for Peter Atkinson

# 6. Schacter used silence better than any other lawyer did. At one point, after powerfully rebutting one of the government's theories, he said in a grave voice, "This is not a game," and went silent. The entire courtroom was crushed by the seriousness of the trial.

Gus Newman for John Boultbee

# 5. The government alleged that the defendants hid their fraud from the shareholders. At one point, because Newman was talking about something that his client allegedly hid from everyone, Newman walked over to the government table and started loudly whispering his arguments to the jury. He said, "I am whispering right now because this is supposed to be a secret."

Patrick Tuite, also for John Boultbee

# 4. Patrick Tuite started his arguments differently than the other lawyers. He started while standing behind his seated client, Jack Boultbee, with his hands on Boultbee's shoulders. Tuite emphasized that his client is a good man and that the jury is judging him. All of the defense lawyers tried to personalize the case, but this was the single most effective tactic in closing arguments.

More Gus Newman

# 3. Newman would frequently read transcripts of the testimony. Listening to people read is normally very painful, but not when he did it. My favorite was when he read a portion of Radler's testimony about whether Radler recalled making a particular statement to the board of directors of the company. Newman read Radler's stumbling and stuttering answer that finally culminated with, "I would have to say yes." Newman's timing and tone made Radler sound like a liar or an idiot, but Newman wasn't overly dramatic. It was an excellent balance.

# 2. The court normally stopped for lunch at about 12:30 pm each day and at about 12:25 pm the judge told Mr. Newman to let the court know when he "is at a breaking point." He looks shocked and asks, "You mean for lunch only?"

Ron Safer for Mark Kipnis

# 1. During her closing arguments, Ruder said that the defendants had a problem because their fraud left a paper trail and anytime the company wanted to get a loan, the paper trail would be discovered. Ruder contended that the defendants tried to cover up the paper trail with more lies. To counter the government's accuasation, Safer asked the jury, "do you know how to get rid of a paper trail?" and then he slammed his hand down on the top page of his notebook, ripped the page out, held his hand in the air, crumpled the page up, and threw it on the ground. "That is how you get rid of a paper trail." He told the jury that it is to easy destroy documents showing an alleged fraud, and since the defendants did not destroy any documents, then the jury should infer that there was not a fraud. After he finished explaining his idea, Safer looked down at the paper and said, "Let me retrieve my outline." The courtroom laughed while he carefully un-crumpled the paper and put it on the podium.

My thanks to Professor Henry H. Perritt, Jr. for his help.


Post a Comment

<< Home

  Webmail Login                  Contact Us