At a Status Conference held today in The Hague, the Special Court for Sierra Leone judges set a time table to end the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. The judges also dismissed in entirety a defense contempt motion requesting an enquiry into how prosecutors conducted themselves during their investigations. Defense lawyers further indicated that they would call one final witness to testify for Mr. Taylor.
As the Status Conference commenced this morning, the Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber, Justice Julia Sebutinde, first informed the parties that the Trial Chamber will deliver an oral decision without reasons on the defense motion that contempt investigations be established against prosecutors for their conduct in dealing with witnesses during their investigations. In the motion that was filed by defense lawyers for Mr. Taylor on September 24, 2010, defense lawyers alleged that prosecutors had misconducted themselves during their investigations by bribing, intimidating, and sometimes physically assaulting witnesses to testify against Mr. Taylor.
As she delivered the very short ruling of the Trial Chamber today, Justice Sebutinde said, “The Trial Chamber dismisses this motion in its entirety and will publish its reasons in due cause.”
The court then heard from Mr. Taylor’s defense lawyers that they will call one more witness to testify for Mr. Taylor. The witness, who is identified by the Pseudonym DCT-102, will commence his testimony on Monday, November 1, 2010. Defense lawyers intend to lead the witness in direct examination for two days, but it is not clear how long prosecutors will take to cross-examine the witness. According to Mr. Taylor’s defense counsel Terry Munyard, they do not anticipate that the witness’s entire testimony will last for more than one week.
The court heard from both the prosecution and the defense on various issues, including disclosure of materials by the prosecution, a time limit for the closure of the defense case, and the time limit and length of closing briefs. After a brief recess, the judges returned to the court with the following orders.
1. The defense case will formally close immediately after the testimony of DCT-102 or at the latest by November 12, 2010.
2. The the court will observe a judicial recess from December 17, 2010 and will resume on January 10, 2011.
3. The parties will submit their final trial briefs by Friday, January 14, 2011 but either party could do so at an earlier date if they wish to.
4. If they wish to, the parties should file any written responses to each other’s final trial briefs by January 31, 2011.
5. The court will hear final oral arguments from the parties for three days starting on February 8, 2011. Prosecutors will first deliver their final oral arguments on February 8, followed by defense oral arguments on February 9, then the court will observe a one day hiatus on February 10, and the parties will make any rebuttals to each other’s oral arguments for two hours each on February 11, 2011.
6. The the length of each party’s final trial briefs should not be more than 600 pages while any responses to the trial briefs should not be more than 100 pages from each party.
After the closing arguments, the court will then determine how long it will take before a final judgment is delivered. The court adjourned and will resume on Monday, November 1, 2010 with the commencement of the evidence of DCT-102.
DCT-102 will be Mr. Taylor’s 21st and final defense witness.