The white trash jury in the United States vs. Conrad Black et al trial is getting restless and starting to nod off at all the detail in the corporate documents and the transactions being presented to them. This is typical of a white-collar crime before a blue-collar jury whose knowledge of the criminal justice system comes from TV. Media interest is also slackening in the detail but opinion pieces are still coming thick and fast.
Two more businessmen and a former executive are to be questioned this week, as prosecutors work to painstakingly trace a money trail leading into the pockets of the former media baron and three other Hollinger International executives. Judge Amy St Eve’s court will only sit Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, to accommodate the Passover and Easter holidays. The case continues to yadda yadda.
He’s not the only guilty party. David Bolchover sounds off in The Times:
All this sanctimonious carping about Conrad Black is getting me down. He and three accomplices are accused of stealing $60 million from shareholders. Everyone is up in arms, as if stealing from shareholders wasn’t entirely commonplace. Every day employees and their managers plunder huge amounts of money from the owners of public companies. Nobody even lifts a finger. If Lord Black of Crossharbour is convicted, he will merely be guilty of clumsiness, of a lack of nous. He should have just awarded himself a larger bonus instead…
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Theft has been institutionalised, woven into the fabric of corporate life. Not the stuff of criminal trials, but subtle, pervasive and largely unrecognised for what it undoubtedly is. So let’s be done with all this ridiculous hypocrisy. Conrad Black may be innocent, he may be guilty. If he’s guilty, he’ll rightly pay the penalty. Millions of others also are, and won’t.
A surprise turn at The Circus. R Emmett Tyrrell Jr. grovels in The New York Sun:
The news from the Conrad Black trial in Chicago is a surprise. The vulpine British press is returning home. Members of the jury have been observed deep in sleep. The circus that was recently predicted by the New York Times has turned into a thunderous bore…
Mr Black did not begin his career as a journalist. He was a businessman. Yet the company he built, the newspapers he published, and the journalists he encouraged mark him as one of the finest newspapermen of modern times.
He himself is a stupendously civilised man, widely learned, and the author of two splendid biographies, one of Franklin Roosevelt, the other of Richard Nixon to be published this spring.
When he was on top at Hollinger, journalism in the English-speaking world was vastly more interesting than it is today. I have known him for two decades and admired his works. I have also had my run-ins with him. A few years back I refused a deal he offered me. Boy was he mad. I was too. But that is water under the bridge.
Mr Black is a major force for good in the publishing world, and all who favor a free and intelligent press should hope that he will be back…
So the hacks in the press are growing tired of the trial. The drama of bringing a grand figure down is not developing. Mr Black has been a gentleman throughout the entire proceedings, though he faces months more. His stance has been valiant. He did not cop a plea. He has trusted in the justice of an American court. He remains a friend of America. Mr Black may yet mount one of the great comebacks in modern journalistic history.
Waiting for Gensen to act the goat. By Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Financial Times:
Many attorneys are looking forward to Mr Ed Genson’s examination of the government’s witnesses. One attorney recalled how, more than 20 years ago, Mr Genson gave a group of law students from Loyola University an invaluable lesson about how to cross-examine a witness.
According to the attorney, Mr Genson, who at the time walked with a cane, strutted into the courtroom where students were waiting for him and began acting bizarrely, standing up on a desk, kicking a chair and even undoing one student’s tie. He then asked one of the students to play the part of a witness, and conducted a cross-examination of the student’s recollection of what had just occurred.
By the end of the inquisition, even other students were second-guessing their own memories, wondering what had really happened, the attorney recalled, proving why Mr Genson is considered a living legend within the Chicago defence bar.
The trial of Conrad Black. Mark Steyn, Macleans blog:
In today’s Toronto Star, Kelly Toughill pens one of those finger-wagging jeremiads only a J-school professor could love warning us journalists covering the Black trial that we’re in danger of contributing to “the decline of public faith in the entire profession”.
It must be marvelous to be able to type that phrase with a straight face. Does she get out of the house much? The issue is apparently whether we have all divulged our interests in the Black case. In reality, most Canadian journalists have an “interest” in Conrad Black to the extent that, at one time or another, he fired us, hired us, or declined to hire us.
Her Blackness started with Genesis. Dominic Lawson, Indy:
That tired old story is now being trotted out as an explanation of the circumstances which have led Conrad Black to where he now is, on trial for racketeering and money-laundering in a Chicago courtroom—charges of which I very much hope that he will be acquitted.
The idea of the much-misunderstood man led into foul acts by a scheming woman is a staple of literature down the ages—a tradition in which the British press is only the latest, lurid, participant. You don’t have to be a feminist to argue that it starts at the very beginning with the book of Genesis: Eve, transfixed by the snake (Satan), persuades Adam to bite from the apple, thus creating original sin, which blights humanity for ever afterwards… It is widely asserted that Black took money that properly belonged to the other shareholders in his newspaper empire, solely to satisfy his wife Barbara’s insatiable desire for frocks and rocks. This trite assumption is given greater verisimilitude by articles portraying Barbara Black—who has not been charged with any offence—as a cross between Cruella De Vil and Mata Hari.