No Cheney, No Libby For the Defense
Imagine this. Something in Washington, D.C. being completed early! We just learned that Vice President Dick Cheney will NOT testify at I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice trial in federal court in Washington. More importantly, we also are learning that Libby himself will not testify -- a strategic decision by his lawyers that has cut the defense case down to its nub. Closing arguments now are tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday -- several weeks before anything thought this circus of a trial would end.
What does it all mean? One thing it means is that Libby's attorneys clearly felt that the risk of bringing Cheney and Libby to the stand were too great to offset whatever reward they may have offered in the way of testimony. This isn't too surprising in Cheney's case -- everyone knows he was going to say his former assistant was/is a good guy and was working on monumentally important things inside the White House. But it sure will come as a disappointment to jurors when they don't see Libby himself take the stand to explain how it could be that he forgot what was what when questioned under oath about Valerie Plame Wilson.
Yes, I know. Libby has a right not to testify. But in a case like this, where the defense is that he made a simple mistake and had no criminal intent, and where the facts otherwise are not much in dispute, it is a big, big deal that Libby will not face jurors to plead his case. So far, precisely one defense witness, John Hannah, has told jurors that Libby had a bad memory. Is Hannah's word, alone, enough? I don't think so. And with Libby now just a plain defendant and not a witness, defense attorneys won't be able to tell jurors during closing argument that part of the reason Libby may have forgotten his dates and times about Plame is because he was preoccupied with matters of national security.
Any way you slice it -- at least any way I see it sliced -- today's news bodes ill for the defense. I have been surprised before in cases like this, and good defense attorneys often have a knack for knowing when less is more. But I just don't see it.
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