Monday, January 23, 2006

Opening Statements - Bill Campbell Trial

Opening Statements in the trial of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell were today. (See AJC here for details).  In examining the newspaper reports on the opening statements, it was clearly a day for the defense who personalized their client for the jury and emphasized his role as a civil rights leader. The defense agenda looks like  - "The city has over 8,000 employees" and the accused couldn't know everything.  I didn't know what my aides were doing seems to be a familiar theme in some of the recent corporate criminal prosecutions.

The defense noted that Bill Campbell could have left city hall for a lucrative law firm job.  He didn't, and that may be hard for the prosecution to overcome. If he were really after money, then why not take that route.

Although the defense had their day today, the next couple of weeks are likely to be in the prosecution's arena as they unfold the evidence supporting their case.  Like so many recent white collar trials, the prosecution will be parading out a host of individuals who cut deals, and the defense will likely be trying to show that these deals were to save their own necks. The jury is left to determine the truthfulness of these witnesses.

In reading about the opening statement of the defense team, it is interesting to now go back and see how the questions on the jury questionnaire reflected their defense.  This jury questionnaire (here) is a model that might be helpful to those who practice in courts that do not permit direct jury questioning. Some of the questions that give clues of the defense are:

15. Do you supervise others in your current job or in previous jobs? Yes___ No___ If so, how many?

46. Have you ever worked for a business where an employee has stolen money or property from the business? Yes ____ No ______  If yes, please explain.


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