Given the events of last week, it is hard not to blog on the Conrad Black verdict. Much has been written with more to come. In one of my spring blogs, I commented, with some admiration, on Black’s perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds and noted the importance of steadfastness in litigation. Of course, the danger for Black, as with all other litigants, is that perseverance becomes intransigence. According to a variety of talking heads, Black had ample opportunity to settle with the shareholders and avoid the entire mess, but refused.
I will leave it to others to comment on the justness of the Black verdict. However, building on yesterday’s blog, which addressed the importance of gathering and putting forward the right evidence, the Black verdict is instructive. Black’s right-hand man, David Radler, was ultimately not believed by the jury. Black’s defence team went to great lengths to paint the prosecution’s star witness as a blagger and a liar; they obviously had some success.
What was interesting is the fact that three “small town” newspapermen were, in fact, believed by the jury of 12 ordinary men and women. The three claimed that they were suspicious when Black tried to inject himself through non-competition agreements into the sale of newspapers. To the jury, their evidence rang true and was credible; Black was up to no good.
In the end, Black was convicted on the evidence of strangers or third parties to the litigation. The three newspapermen had nothing to gain by testifying. Their evidence, presented in a sincere and congenial way, proved to be the undoing of Black. It is trite to say that litigation is unpredictable. However, when witnesses who have nothing to gain give evidence, it is best to sit up and take notice.
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