Pre-Defense Conference for the Commencement of the Defense Case

9:30am: On Monday June 8, 2009, the Trial Chamber II of the Special Court for Sierra Leone hearing the Charles Taylor case held a Pre-Trial Conference to discuss matters relating to the commencement of Mr. Taylor’s defense which is set for June 29, 2009.

After parties for Prosecution and Defense announced their respective representations, Presiding Judge Richard Lissick asked whether anybody wanted to mention any new matter before dealing with items on the anenda for the pre-trial conference. Defense Counsel for Mr. Taylor Courtaney Griffiths informed the court that the Rule 73 motion that was earlier filed by the Defense was incomplete and that his team intended to file a complete version with exhibits as soon as possible.  He said that the exhibits pertinent to the commencement of the Defense Case will be filed.

Justice Lussick then went through the following as list of agenda items for the conference and asked for defense response to each item.

1. Length of Defense Opening Statement

Defense Cousel Griffiths responded that the defense opening statement will not last longer than the Prosecution’s opening statement that was delivered by the Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp at the start of the trial.

2. Defense Access to the Accused during his Testimony.

To this, Prosecution Counsel Ms. Brenda Hollis stated that as a general rule, once a witness commences his testimony in court, he should have no access to either party (prosecution or defense) but that this should be related with accused person’s right to have access to his counsel during the trial. She informed the court that she was in possession of an ICTY rulling which laid guidelines for such a scenario and was willing to share it with the court.

In response, Mr. Griffiths said that in most domestic jurisdictions, there should be no access to the accused once he becomes a witness in his own trial but that this case should be treated differently taking into account the circumstances in this case. He said there was need to take note that the  defense investigations are still ongoing and that counsel will need advice from the accused on some witnesses. Mr Griffiths said that there was need for:

a. Mr. Taylor to have access to all defense staff in order to make progress with his case. These, he said will relate to matters outside his testimony, and

b. He should have access to defense staff in relation to his testimony as far as content and length are concerned. He said that Taylor should be given all necessary assitance and that the accused will need to be in touch with some witnesses.

Ms. Hollis replied that she if the accused had access to counsel and witnesses during his testimony, that should be a suitable area of cross-examination in order to determine what his conversations with those witnesses are.

Defense counsel Griffiths objected to this, arguing that this will breach legal professional privilege. Ms. Hollis also responded that if there was any contact with the accused, then the ICTY case supports cross-examination. Defense Counsel Griffiths in turn said that he found Ms. Hollis’s position very offensive as an officer of the Court to suggest that counsel might try to influence what the accused will say in his testimony, to which Ms. Hollis pointed that during the presentation of the Prosecution’s case, Defense Counsel suggested on many occassions that the Prosecution had told the witnesses to tell lies.

3 and 4. Defense to provide one month in advance list of witnesses to be called for each calender month and the language in which they will testify.

Defense Counsel Griffiths responded that the list and language of testimony be provided two weeks before the testimony, to which Ms. Hollis replied that it will be necessary to have one month for the list of witnesses and two weeks for the language in which they will testify.

5. The length of trial sessions and the availability of the ICC Court Room.

Presiding Judge Lussick told the parties that he has been informed by the Registry that the ICC was asking for the use of the Court Room for two weeks, starting on October 4, 2009. He said that it would therefore make sense for the Taylor trial to take the summer recess of three weeks within that period, starting on October 5.

Ms. Hollis said that she wanted the follwing two issues added to the agenda items:

1. The time estimate for the accused’s testimony, and

2. Clarity on whether said estimate will be only for direct examination

Ms. Hollis also said that reading from the defense list of 227 witness who should testify for Mr. Taylor, the follwing issues were unclear:

  • Testimony of the two expert witnesses
  • That four numbers were missing from the witness chart
  • That 5 witness summaries were worded the same
  • That there is no time estimate for about 40 witnesses
  • That the defense had stated that the defense case would last for 348 trial days and she wanted to know whether this was just for direct examination or whether it included cross-examination
  • Which witnesses are core and which are back-up witnesses
  • Clarity of the names of 4 former African leaders who should testify for Mr. Taylor
  • Concerns about “Senior ECOWAS Officials”, “High Ranking Members of the UN” and whether these had asked for protective measures that their names have not been disclosed
  • That the witness summaries are inadequate
  • That three witnesses seem to give opinion evidence and should be more suited as expert witnesses

In response, Mr. Griffiths said that the testimony of the accused should last for 6-8 weeks, including both direct and redirect examination.

On the time length for the testimony of defense witnesses, he said that the estimate is for direct examination and that the defense will be providing a list of additional witnesses to complete the total number of witnesses that will likely testify for Mr. Taylor. He agreed that the original filing had some defects because the defense wanted to meet the deadline that was set by the Court. He said that Defense will do a better filing soon.

Justice Lissick told counsel on both sides that these are matters that can be better settled between the parties. He said if the parties could not reach agreement on these issues, then they should ask the Court for help.

Asked whether all the 227 witnesses are core witnesses, Mr. Griffiths said that it is unlikely to call all those witnesses on the list to testify but that the defense will be be screening the list and selecting those who will testify. He said that the Defense will look into the issues raised such as the issue of expert witnesses and make clarifications to them. Justice Sebuntinde told Mr. Griffiths that the language in which witnesses will testify should also be made clear. Mr. Griffiths responded that the defense will address that as well.

The Court took a brief adjournment and upon resuming, Presiding Judge Richard Lussick made the following orders:

1. That the Court will take a summer recess on October 5 2009 for a period of three weeks

2. Procedural matters can be settled between the two parties and that if matters are out of their reach, they can apply to the Court for an order on the issue.

3. That the defense should provide a witness order, language of testimony and anticipated exhibits that the witness will use two weeks before the witness’s testimony

Justice Lussick also asked the parties whether there was a need for a status conference may be a week or so before the commencement of the Defense Case on June 29. Ms. Hollis responded that there was a need for such a status conference and ideally, that should take place on Friday the 19 or Monday the 22 of June 2009. Mr. Griffiths said that the defense would prefer to have the said conference on Monday June 22.

June 22 2009 was scheduled as the date for the Status Conference before the comencement of the Defense case.

Mr. Griffiths asked that the submission of the final list of witnesses be delayed untill the end of the week so that issues raised by the prosecution will be addressed.

Ms. Hollis had no objection to this.

Court adjourned and will resume for a Status Conference on Monday June 22, 2009.


  1. Let the fireworks begins……
    I pray and hope JUSTICE…..TRUE JUSTICE based on the MANDATE of this court and the MERITS of the testimonies and evidences are the FINAL verdict.


  2. Noko4,

    I agree with your thoughts. However I must say unless the Prosecution can really discredit Mr. Taylor’s testimony on cross examination the Defense seems to be in the drivers seat.

  3. Well, I’m not a Charlse Taylor supporter, but I’m totally convinced that this case is politically motivated.
    Let them try another way, I don’t think this way of doing things can work any more, the world’s now open and people are not sleeping any more.
    How many more warlords are there in Africa alone, take Museveni for instance, but once he is darling of the West, he has never been accused of any crime…let alone be brought to “justice”’…

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