I’ve had the priveledge to serve on a jury in a criminal case and the inner workings of the law and the courts have always fascinated me. So watching the trial of Charles Taylor in the Special Court on Sierra Leone on BBC News has been an interesting break from the usual churn of Coalition stories. For me the star of the trial is Taylor’s defence lawyer Courtenay Griffiths, a Jamaican born QC educated in Leeds. Watching his cross examination of Naomi Campbell’s ex-agent Carole White is a case book study in how to demolish a prosecution witness. In slow and measured tones Griffiths carefully built up a picture of Carole White using her staff’s Facebook posts and comments in a systematic way with the intention of putting her character in the spotlight.
Now from what I have read I think it is extremely likely that Charles Taylor is guilty of war crimes including providing funds to train rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians, frequently hacking off their hands and legs. However if one of the principles of a strong justice system is to ensure that the defendent has a capable lawyer to put across his or her case then Taylor has picked an excellent choice with Griffiths.
I only wish that some of our politicians were subjected to the same quality of cross examination that Ms White has been subjected to. Actori incumbit onus probandi.