Big news. Doug Greene has just revealed the core strategy of the defense in the federal Dallas City Hall corruption trial.
He has also just been administered a smart spanking from the judge for wasting her time.
I missed this morning's proceedings in federal district court. I kept up, though, via Jennifer Emily's very capable coverage on The Dallas Morning News's live blog. So here I am, back in the ad hoc press room upstairs from the courtroom. The judge, Barbara Lynn, lets us use computers and cell phones up here -- verboten in the real courtroom. We watch on closed-circuit TV.
Greene, D'Angelo Lee's lawyer, is now moving toward the end of his cross-examination of Bill Fisher, the affordable housing developer who gathered evidence against the 14 accused co-conspirators by wearing covert transmitter. This is about stuff that happened four and five years ago. The accusation is that former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and Lee, his appointee to the plan commission, traded their votes on tax-subsidized housing projects for contracts given to their buddies.
Fisher is in his third day of cross-examination by half a dozen defense lawyers: They are working to show that the so-called conspirators were engaging in legitimate political activity in pursuance of city policies.
The case has a major racial element because all of the people accused of taking bribes and extorting money are black. The case involves city policies aimed at redressing a history of racial discrimination in Southern Dallas.
Fisher is tough. He stays focused. He's smart.
Referring to a transcript of a phone call between Fisher and Lee, Greene has just asked him a complicated question about what he said to Lee in the call. Fisher says, "Sorry, I can't answer that, counselor. It's a three-sentence diatribe within a question, so can you rephrase it?"
Fisher tells the judge, "Objection, non-responsive."
Then she sends the jury out.
"Mr. Greene," Judge Lynn tells him, "this is just not productive. I have an obligation to give your client an opportunity to give a defense, which I am doing, but I also have an obligation to this jury to finish the case ... I am going to require you to move it along. ... Is there something that I can do to assist in moving this along?"
Greene says, "Yes, your honor. I guess, just for the record, we are going to move as expeditiously as possible."
Greene points out that Fisher spent two days on the stand talking about Lee, his client. "I have been up for about three hours."
Here's the money quote: Greene says, "In order to make the entrapment argument, we have to show every little moment that Mr. Fisher starts to..."
Judge Lynn, clearly surprised, interrupts: "What entrapment argument?"
"We are presenting evidence of entrapment," Greene says.
"You are pleading entrapment?"
"I think I submitted that as a jury instruction," he tells her.
She's got a look on her face like, "Missed THAT!!" She asks the other lawyers, "Are any of other defendants going to argue entrapment as of this time?"
I can't hear what they say, but she doesn't like it.
"I won't have my comments paraphrased," she tells them. "When I speak I am speaking on the record... "
I miss some of this. She says, "We started this morning at 17 minutes until 9. We recessed at 12:15. We took a five-minute break. The concern that I have, Mr. Greene, is that you are not moving forward. I expect you to cover what we have covered in an expeditious way and to complete your examination of this witness.
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"Within about an hour at the outside, you are going to be done. If you don't complete your examination within that time frame, it will not be because I haven't given you fair notice. You are repeating and repeating the questions you are asking the defendant."
Greene says, "I think I can finish up."
We discussed this at the Observer story meeting this morning. A tough proof. Doesn't mean you can't make it. But Lynn seems really baffled to hear that's what they've been up to all this time.