COLUMN: Goldstein – Conrad Black wants to testify?

- July 27th, 2012

Perhaps he should have done so at his trial

By: Lorrie Goldstein

Conrad Black wants to testify to his innocence before the advisory panel of the Order of Canada.

This raises the question of why he declined to do so before the jury during his criminal trial in the U.S.

After all, the matter on which Black is appealing to the Federal Court of Canada — to make oral arguments before the Order’s advisory panel on whether he should be stripped of the honour — is relatively trivial.

Indeed, Black’s criminal convictions in the U.S. for fraud and obstruction of justice are the reasons he may be stripped of the Order.

In making submissions to the Federal Court about why he wants to testify before the advisory panel rather than just make written presentations, Black said he wants to look its members “in the eyes.” (The court will hold a hearing on Black’s request next month).

But if Black wants to look them “in the eyes,” why didn’t he want to look his jury “in the eyes?”

As QMI Agency’s legal analyst Alan Shanoff has noted, while all accused have the right not to testify, to think that declining to do so doesn’t affect jurors — particularly in Black’s case, with its damning video evidence showing him removing boxes from his office that he was under legal orders not to — is naïve.

Black ended up proclaiming his innocence to everyone but the jury in court.

His explanation for why he didn’t testify in his book, A Matter of Principle, is convoluted at best.

“The issue of my testifying was something (defence lawyer Edward) Greenspan and I had always thought was an ace up our sleeve,” Black wrote. “The prosecution had so oversold the idea that I was a snob and a brigand that I would be like an owl to crows. I knew the facts and had already memorized a great deal of the material. We put it about that I was desperate to testify and that Greenspan was horrified at the prospect. Neither was the case.”

Black confidently predicts he “could have seen off the prosecutors” but he and Greenspan decided not to testify because it would have (a) allowed prosecutors to question him on issues they would otherwise not have been able to raise, (b) “prolonged the trial, made it much more complicated, and put us more on the defensive” and (c) “vastly raised my status as an accused above the other defendants, among whom I was trying to obscure myself … ”

Don’t these seem mundane considerations for someone as convinced of his innocence as Black? If you were wrongly accused of a crime, wouldn’t you want to make your case directly to the jury?

Black concludes, “I would have enjoyed slapping them (the prosecutors) around, but I might not have won friends on the jury doing so.”

Of course, how many friends Black won on the jury by not testifying is obvious.

While Black’s appeal to the Federal Court gives him another forum to rail against the U.S. justice system and retry the case solely on his terms, it’s really little more than a sideshow.

It doesn’t impact on his criminal convictions or his decision to forfeit his Canadian citizenship, the basis on which most people have formed their opinions about Black, for good or ill.

Categories: Contributor Columns

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4 comments

  1. Thomas_L...... says:

    Black’s worst problem is his arrogance and unlikeability. Maybe they, correctly or not, decided that his testimony wouldn’t help and his arrogance, which he is unable to hide, would do him in. Having followed the case with Mark Steyn’s daily blogging, I believe they also thought they had proven their case and would win.
    As for the Order of Canada, I thought he was British.

  2. Constantin says:

    I think it is a little unfair to compare the two situations. In the context of a criminal trial with potential dire consequences it was commendable that the advice of an experienced criminal lawyer was followed.
    The application Mr. Black has before the court is simply to determine whether some kind of fairness in the sense of a due process could be required when stripping someone of a high national distinction, or whether it can be done arbitrarily. If he was convicted of something in China and he would have been advised there not to become argumentative with the court, would you have taken the same position?
    I know nothing about this case, but I have much respect for the intellectual stature of Mr. Black and, perhaps in recognition of the service to this country that was marked by being given the Order of Canada, he should also be allowed to speak. I am indeed surprised that the committee did not grant this simple request without imposing the hardship of a court proceeding. I think we will all stand to lose if we were to discount the significance of withdrawing Canada’s highest distinction by validating a completely discretionary proceeding behind close doors by a group so heavily biased against conservative contribution to the Canadian society. While (unfortunately) the outcome may be a given, it would do this committee a great amount of good to face – eye to eye – the resolve and intellect of an extraordinary man. In the good old days great achievement generated respect and deference, and the downfall of someone once great was cause for introspection and discretion. Whatever wrongs this man may have done, he has suffered for them greatly. By what account a fully penalized wrong erases a past of achievement? When does the kicking stop and people go back to minding their own business?
    Perhaps we will do better turning our minds to the question of what is the true nature of a distinction, such as the Order of Canada. Since when it has become subject to a contract of future good behaviour? In theory it recognizes significant achievements and/or remarkable service. In what context it is morally justifiable to no longer recognize such service? It is the moral equivalent of deciding that certain people are no longer worthy of thanks for help or service rendered. If he were somehow to avert a nuclear disaster tomorrow, would a fully penalized criminal act prevent us thanking him for the good and recognizing his service? Withrawing this distinction is the moral equivalent of withdrawing gratitude. There is something utterly despicable in doing so and I think we should think long and hard before rushing into it. Just like compassion, gratitude is one of the pillars of our humanity and making it conditional might be a really bad idea.

  3. Michael C says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    Condrad you should do comedy, your double speak is hilarious.

  4. AudioTaurus says:

    You have all the points, well laid out, regarding convicted criminal Con Black.
    I believe that as a foreigner criminal, he should not have been allowed into canada. After all, he renounced Canada. Surely we have enough criminals in this country?

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