Wednesday, February 14, 2007

No Libby or Cheney Testimony On Tap

Nobody, except perhaps the clueless press, expected Scooter Libby to take the stand.

Criminal defense lawyers almost never have guilty clients testify in their own behalf. It can can only make matters worse.

The same principle applies to Cheney. The risk was always too high that an appearance on the stand would expose him to legal jeopardy.

Lawyers defending I. Lewis Libby Jr. against perjury charges surprised the courtroom on Tuesday by saying that they would rest their case this week and do so without putting on the stand either Mr. Libby or Vice President Dick Cheney. ...

The decision means that Mr. Libby’s defense, which will formally end on Wednesday, will have spanned barely three days. Mr. Libby’s chief defense lawyer, Theodore V. Wells Jr., told Judge Reggie B. Walton that Mr. Libby had accepted the defense team’s recommendation to end their presentation swiftly and send the case to the jury by next week.

The decision could be viewed as a sign that Mr. Libby’s lawyers are confident that the prosecution failed to make its case.

Mr. Wells had earlier signaled strongly that he intended to call Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney to testify, which suggests that the defense team recently analyzed the costs and benefits of putting them on the stand and concluded that their testimony would not, on balance, help Mr. Libby.

One likely factor in that calculation is that putting Mr. Libby on the stand would expose him to a cross-examination by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the chief prosecutor, that could be withering. ...

The jury is expected to hear final arguments from both sides beginning next Tuesday.

Although the jury will not hear Mr. Libby in person, during the trial, prosecutors played eight hours of audiotapes in which Mr. Fitzgerald questioned him before the grand jury. The jury heard Mr. Libby giving his version calmly in the first two-thirds of the tapes and then seeming to become uneasy and less confident as Mr. Fitzgerald bore in.

Libby's whole "busy man that can't be expected to remember everything" defense might hold water in a case with different circumstances.

But Libby -- according to the prosecution -- crafted an elaborate fiction, a veritable web of lies, asserting under oath that he heard of Mrs. Wilson's status from Tim Russert.

If the jury buys that magnitude of bullshittery, something is wrong with them.

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