Friday, April 29, 2005

Cross-Examination Begins - Dennis Kozlowski

The cross-examination of Dennis Kozlowski began yesterday.  If this turns out to be the only defense witness, this trial may be over soon.  The title of this morning's Wall Street Journal article here says it all - "Kozlowski Says He Didn't Notice $25 Million Missing From W-2."  Now the question is whether his admission will be sufficient to the jury to demonstrate that the witness-defendant did not have the mens rea for the crimes charged.  Will the jury believe the "honest but ignorant CEO" defense?  It's difficult for the defense to convince people who may not think in terms of this amount of money, how someone could have overlooked 25 million.

And Kozlowski's cross examination may not have helped here.  According to the Wall Street Journal, it says that "At times during yesterday's cross-examination, Mr. Kozlowski seemed to try to lighten the mood by giving jokey answers, which drew laughs from his friends and family in attendance."   A witness-defendant who jokes on the witness stand can be problematic.  In some cases you may want the witness to do this to lighten the tough tone exhibited by the person.  But often this can make a jury think that the person doesn't take the charges and trial seriously.  In some cases, the witness may be joking or laughing as a nervous reaction and there may be nothing the defense can do about it.  It's unfortunate that the ability of the witness-defendant to present a certain imagine can sometimes have a strong influence in a trial.  But sometimes, juries see through it all and do assess whether the person is telling the truth or not. 


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