9:30am: On Monday July 6, 2009, the Trial Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone held a Status Conference in anticipation of the opening of the defense case in the Taylor trial. Both Prosecution and Defense counsel raised several issues bordering on the commencement of the defense case on July 13, 2009. Defense Counsel for Mr. Taylor, Courtaney Griffiths requested the court’s permission to have the defense opening statement delivered on Monday, July 13, while Mr. Taylor would commence his testimony on Tuesday, July 14, 2009. The prosecution had no objection to this. Presiding Judge Richard Lussick informed Taylor’s defense counsel Mr. Griffiths that the defense opening statement should be confined only to the evidence that will be adduced in Mr. Taylor’s defense.
Prosecution Counsel Ms. Brenda Hollis informed the Court that there were a few issues that still remain unaddressed by the defense. These, she said, include;
No. of Witnesses to be called by the Defense: Ms. Hollis said that the defense has now filed updated witness summaries and the time estimate for witnesses’ testimonies. She said that according to the updated witness list, the defense intends to call 256 witnesses, which is 3 times more than those called by the prosecution. She said that an estimate of the time for the testimonies of these witnesses will amount to 94 weeks or a period of 4 years. This, she said, is a disproportionate number of witnesses and time for their testimonies.
Ms. Hollis also said that the prosecution would want a list of core and back up defense witnesses. She said that she was aware that the defense will give a more refined witness list by the conclusion of Mr. Taylor’s testimony but she wanted the Trial Chamber to order this in case it did not happen. She further said that the summaries of some defense witnesses remain inadequate.
2. Expert Witnesses: Ms. Hollis informed that court that based on the summaries of witness testimony submitted by the defense so far, there are three witnesses whose summaries suggest that they are expert witnesses as one will give opinion evidence on the ethnic nature of the conflict, another to respond to Prosecution Expert Witness Ian Smilie’s testimony and the other on the cause of Sam Bockarie’s death. Defense Counsel Mr. Griffith responded that the said witnesses are not experts but are witnesses of fact. Justice Lussick ruled that the Chamber will stick to the point that the witnesses are witnesses of fact and that if their testimonies suggested that they are expert witnesses, said testimony will not be allowed.
Ms. Hollis also said that it was necessary to monitor Mr. Taylor’s communications with witnesses during his testimony.
In response, Mr. Griffiths said that the Defense has been very helpful within the available resources. In response to prosecution concerns about the list of witnesses, Mr. Griffiths said that the prosecution disclosed a list of over 300 witnesses but called only 91 of those. He said that the same thing will apply to the defense as not all those witnesses will testify.
On the Expert witness issue, Mr. Griffiths insisted that the said witnesses are not expert witnesses but witnesses of fact. On monitoring Mr. Taylor’s communications with witnesses, Mr. Griffiths said that this is already the case as all of Taylor’s communications with the outside world are monitored by the court. He said, however, that he will not allow any monitoring of conversations between Mr. Taylor and his legal team.
In making specific orders, the presiding judge addressed the following issues:
1. The Trial Chamber thinks that the issue of core and back up witnesses should be revisited at the end of Mr. Taylor’s testimony and that the issue of witness summary does not call for any specific order.
2. That the defense has insisted that the 3 witnesses concerned are not expert witnesses and that in case their testimonies suggest thus, the prosecution will be protected by the Rules of Evidence and Procedure and that the Court would make a specific order if necessary.
3. That the list of witnesses should be submitted one month before the witnesses are called and that there is an existing order for the submission of defense exhibits before they are used in court. He said that the prosecution can apply for relief if it can demonstrate that it has suffered any prejudice.
On the accused’s communication with witnesses, that the prosecution should make a formal application by motion if the Chamber should consider the issue.
The presiding judge also informed defense counsel that Rule 73 tar (d) allows the Chamber to order the reduction in number of witnesses if they are excessive.
Justice Lusick then ordered that the Defense opening statement will take place on Monday, July 13, and Mr. Taylor’ss testimony will commence of Tuesday, July 13, 2009.
Court adjourned and will resume on Monday, July 13, 2009.