Thursday, March 13, 2008

Classic Cross-examination

With the nation focused on the salacious facts of the New York Governor’s resignation., precious little attention is being paid to the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor for various “crimes against humanity” being conducted by the International Court of Criminal Justice in the Hague. That may change after today’s testimony by Taylor’s former Chief of Operations, one Joseph “Zigzag” Marzah. Zigzag testified that he and the army were under orders to eat the enemy, as well as members of a U.N. peacekeeping force, during the Civil War Sierra Leone back in 2002. While I have never personally participated in a cross-examination involving cannibalism before, I like to think that I could have done a pretty good job in attacking the credibility of anyone named “Zigzag”, but that may just be my trial lawyer ego talking.


For instance, Zigzag testified that he had done nothing on his own accord but only followed orders given by Taylor. Any trial lawyer will tell you that that is an easy answer to destroy. Cross-examination question a-1 is this. “Well Mr. Zigzag, are you saying that if President Taylor had ordered you to jump off of the Empire State Building you would have done it ?” mothers and elementary school teachers have been using this line of questioning for years with devastating success.


Similarly, Zigzag also testified that anyone not following a direct order would be killed. You can throw doubt in a juries mind through the simple question, “Well you never saw anyone killed did you ?” The answer is always, “No, we always obeyed orders because we assumed that he would kill us.” So the follow up is (sarcastically) “Oh, you assumed did you ? but you never saw anyone killed.”


Many of the prosecutions questions should have been objected to kept out as irrelevant. Among them were these gems.


“Which did you eat more of , the Krahn (tribe in opposition to Taylor) or U.N Peacekeepers ?” What possible relevance can that have ?


“How do you prepare a human being for the pot ?” Again, we have established that people were eaten, the testimony that followed this question about splitting, cleaning, decapitating (and throwing away the head) and then salt and peppering is only going to incite the finders of fact at this trail. Although it does add to the sum of human knowledge to those of us not familiar with cooking our fellow man.


But without a doubt, the most outrageous question asked by the prosecutor was this, “Which tasted better ?” (Krahn or peacekeepers). That is just plain jury argument and the prosecutor should have been called down for it. Hell, the whole indictment should have been dismissed. I don’t know why we are having a trial like this in the first place. It sounds like there is plentiful evidence of ordered massacres. That should be enough to hang President Taylor. The punishment for eating U.N. peacekeepers and Krahn tribesmen can’t be any stricter than for killing a bunch of them.


Still, it is interesting to compare the crimes of Governor Spitzer and President Taylor. Spitzer procures special services from a consenting adult for a good deal of money and that’s all we hear about in this country for a few days. Taylor orders more than 60 of his fellow human beings butchered and eaten on the battlefield, and we are lucky that it makes a blurb in “News of the World”. Everyone in America knows about “Client number 9”, “George Fox” & the “petite” Kristen of the Emperors Club dating service. No one cares about the senseless slaughter of hundreds and thousands of Africans by a mad dictator. Maybe if there had been more sex in the Taylor story it would have been better covered. All we had in that story was the usual brutal rapes, what fun is that to read about ? What chance is there that Entertainment Tonight will cover it ? I’m sure that Playboy will do a special “Girls of the Emperor’s Club”, whatever came out of Sierra Leone that was in any way entertaining ? Maybe if President Taylor had had a “MySpace” site like Kristin is alleged to have had which detailed his likes and dislikes (murder/torture, human flesh) this story would have had legs. Of course then they would have been eaten.


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