The trial of former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, took an unexpectedly early recess today after his defense team asked for more time to study documents disclosed by prosecutors for use in Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination.
After judges issued an order last Thursday requiring prosecutors to disclose to Mr. Taylor’s defense team all new documents intended for use by prosecutors in cross-examining Mr. Taylor, prosecutors have now disclosed more than 100 new documents. These documents will either be used to try to impeach Mr. Taylor’s credibility as a witness in his own defense or to point to his guilt on the 11 charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international humanitarian law for his alleged role in the crimes committed by rebel forces during the Sierra Leonean conflict.
Today, defense lawyers told the judges that the magnitude of the documents already disclosed — with more expected from the prosecution — they would need more time to study them and prepare for Mr. Taylor’s cros-examination based on those documents.
The team requested that proceedings be adjourned immediately and that they be given the entire period of the Christmas recess to study all the disclosed documents. The court’s recess was due to run from December 11, 2009 to January 11, 2010.
“I am asking that we be given this week and the rest of the recess to have time to assimilate these documents,” lead defense counsel Courtenay Griffiths told the judges.
The defense also asked the judges to exercise some judicial supervision over the use of the documents that prosecutors intend to use in cross-examining Mr. Taylor. The defense requested that “before any document is used, we should establish that the document is in the interest of justice and does not violate the fair trial rights of the accused.”
Prosecutors did not object to the defense application. On the defense request for the court to order an immediate adjournment of the proceedings, lead prosecutor Brenda Hollis told the judges that “should the defense think that they need more time to consider these documents, then it is their right to do and it is for you to determine.”
After conferring with each other, the judges issued an order granting the defense request for an immediate adjournment that will run into the court’s Christmas recess. The court also ordered that all documents intended for use in cross-examination of Mr. Taylor be served on the bench for “judicial supervision.”
Mr. Taylor’s cross-examination will continue on Monday January 11, 2009.