Some Thoughts on the Libby Pre Trial Activities

On Sunday I described some interesting material from the copious Libby pre trial documents which indicated Andrea Mitchell might be called as a defense witness to testify about her handwritten notes of a conversation she had with Libby. I detailed material from the public record as well-comments she and her boss Tim Russert had made publicly about the state of their knowledge in July of 2003 and, in Russert's case, about what he had reported to the investigators.

It is, as I blogged yesterday, altogether possible that both knew far more about Plame and Wilson and the trip to Niger at the time of the Russert-Libby conversation which, I maintain, is the only real  issue in this case.

Little of the back story that is revealed in pretrial documents and proceedings ever makes it to press despite its considerable value. Going through all these things takes a great deal of time and for those without legal experience or training, much of it seems too opaque or difficult to explain. And there is a question as to whether the average reader or viewer cares enough to plough through even summaries of what can be gleaned there.

The same thing is true of matters like the voir dire of potential jurors, although many lawyers think a case is made or lost in that process. So much of what a lawyer can say to a jury is exceedingly circumscribed, but in this process-at least as practiced in this case where the lawyers can directly address these people-it is not. It is counsels' first opportunity to tell what the case is about and to for all involved to take measure of each other.

My view of the process over a dedicated feed to the media room for three hours on Thursday was limited, but my impression is that Libby's counsel did a good job at making sure jurors understood the case from the defendant's point of view-at best a misrecollection of conversations and not the media meme of a secret agent outed in revenge to punish truth telling. I also felt that Libby's counsel Ted Wells has great people skills and can read and connect with the jurors.

And Wells is a great interrogator. His questions are clean and crisp and pointed. When a CIA employee revealed that she had many wrong notions about the case and what constituted "classified" material, the Judge explained where she was wrong and asked if she understood. She said she did, but without the least bit of histrionics, Wells asked her another question-I can't recall the exact words -- and she responded that she thought the case was about a "covert agent" or why was there a case at all?  It was thus made clear she really hadn't been able to lose her mistaken view of the case and she was excused from further participation. And Wells did that nicely, subtly and with just one simple question.

On the other hand-and again that is my impression - I thought Fitzgerald seemed not to relate to people in the same way. As I observed in reading transcripts of pretrial proceedings available in the case, he often falls back on compound, complex formulations. In fact one of the potential jurors responded to one of his questions that she didn't understand what he'd asked. (Neither did I, by the way.)

Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.
On Sunday I described some interesting material from the copious Libby pre trial documents which indicated Andrea Mitchell might be called as a defense witness to testify about her handwritten notes of a conversation she had with Libby. I detailed material from the public record as well-comments she and her boss Tim Russert had made publicly about the state of their knowledge in July of 2003 and, in Russert's case, about what he had reported to the investigators.

It is, as I blogged yesterday, altogether possible that both knew far more about Plame and Wilson and the trip to Niger at the time of the Russert-Libby conversation which, I maintain, is the only real  issue in this case.

Little of the back story that is revealed in pretrial documents and proceedings ever makes it to press despite its considerable value. Going through all these things takes a great deal of time and for those without legal experience or training, much of it seems too opaque or difficult to explain. And there is a question as to whether the average reader or viewer cares enough to plough through even summaries of what can be gleaned there.

The same thing is true of matters like the voir dire of potential jurors, although many lawyers think a case is made or lost in that process. So much of what a lawyer can say to a jury is exceedingly circumscribed, but in this process-at least as practiced in this case where the lawyers can directly address these people-it is not. It is counsels' first opportunity to tell what the case is about and to for all involved to take measure of each other.

My view of the process over a dedicated feed to the media room for three hours on Thursday was limited, but my impression is that Libby's counsel did a good job at making sure jurors understood the case from the defendant's point of view-at best a misrecollection of conversations and not the media meme of a secret agent outed in revenge to punish truth telling. I also felt that Libby's counsel Ted Wells has great people skills and can read and connect with the jurors.

And Wells is a great interrogator. His questions are clean and crisp and pointed. When a CIA employee revealed that she had many wrong notions about the case and what constituted "classified" material, the Judge explained where she was wrong and asked if she understood. She said she did, but without the least bit of histrionics, Wells asked her another question-I can't recall the exact words -- and she responded that she thought the case was about a "covert agent" or why was there a case at all?  It was thus made clear she really hadn't been able to lose her mistaken view of the case and she was excused from further participation. And Wells did that nicely, subtly and with just one simple question.

On the other hand-and again that is my impression - I thought Fitzgerald seemed not to relate to people in the same way. As I observed in reading transcripts of pretrial proceedings available in the case, he often falls back on compound, complex formulations. In fact one of the potential jurors responded to one of his questions that she didn't understand what he'd asked. (Neither did I, by the way.)

Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.