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