Jury selection underway in Conrad Black trial
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 | 6:10 PM ET
Jury selection began Wednesday as the high-stakes criminal trial of Conrad Black opened before a packed courtroom in Chicago.
Black, looking tired and subdued, avoided the media waiting outside the courthouse and quietly slipped inside through another entrance.
While he managed to avoid the cameras outside, he talked to reporters inside.
Defence lawyers Edward Greenspan, left, and Edward M. Genson arrive at Chicago's federal building for jury selection.
(Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)
"I'm feeling fine," he said. He was accompanied by his wife, Barbara Amiel, and daughter Alana Black.
In the case of the United States against Black, 12 jurors will be selected from candidates who have already filled out a lengthy questionnaire. Opening arguments aren't expected until Monday.
Lawyers asked one potential juror what she knew about Canada, where Montreal-born Black launched his newspaper empire in the 1970s.
"Not much. Socialist country," she said, prompting laughs from Black and the Canadian reporters in the packed courtroom.
"I think corporations think they are above the law," another juror said.
Judge Amy St. Eve questioned potential jurors about their views on a variety of issues likely to come up during the trial, including their take on Canadians, wealthy people and big corporations. She also asked what they'd read or heard about the case in the media.
One potential juror said he thought Black had "something to do with Britain's Royal Family." One female juror said she'd heard that "his wife was very beautiful and smart."
With that, Black smiled and looked over at Amiel, who was in the courtroom.
Black, 62, is accused of a variety of criminal charges that range from racketeering, to mail fraud and tax evasion.
The main allegation against Black revolves around the U.S. government's assertion that he defrauded the minority shareholders of Hollinger International of millions of dollars, by illegally diverting money from the sale of Hollinger newspapers.
Black has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing. Three other former Hollinger executives were also charged, and are being tried along with Black.
- Former chief financial officer Jack Boultbee.
- Former vice-president Peter Atkinson.
- Mark Kipnis, a Chicago lawyer and accountant who resigned from Hollinger in 2003.
But it is a fourth former executive who may cause Black the most difficulty.
David Radler, who was Black's business partner for more than three decades and is the ex-chief operating officer of Hollinger International, is expected to testify against Black. He struck a plea bargain with prosecutors that would see him serve a reduced sentence of 29 months.
The trial, which, the judge warned Wednesday, could last into July, is likely to hear from many prominent individuals. Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former Illinois governor James Thompson, and real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump, among others, are possible witnesses.
Black's trial will be closely followed in Canada and Britain, where he took on a larger-than-life presence. His wealth, power, tough business dealings, love for legal battles, and his former ownership of many big newspapers resulted in many appearances on the news, business and society pages.
400 journalists expected to attend trial
All major media organizations in Canada have sent reporters to Chicago. The same holds true in Britain, where his long ownership of the Daily Telegraph newspaper made him prime media fodder. The BBC ran an hour-long profile of him on its BBC Two TV channel Tuesday night. More than 400 journalists have registered to attend the trial.
On the streets of Chicago, on the other hand, Black is almost unknown.
The job of defence lawyer Eddie Greenspan, along with Chicago defence lawyer Edward Genson, will be to convince 12 average Chicagoans that Lord Black of Crossharbour was a victim, not a villain — that Radler's testimony is tainted by his plea deal and therefore should not be believed.
His defence team has already tried to limit references to Black's wealth and lavish lifestyle, knowing that will do nothing to endear their client to a jury likely to be largely middle class. But that will be difficult.
Among the charges Black faces are abusing corporate perks by using a company jet for a private holiday in the South Pacific and spending $50,000 of company funds on a birthday party for Amiel.
It isn't known yet whether Black will take the stand to testify in his own defence.
Top News Headlines
- Harper 'not consulted' about Duffy Senate expense repayment
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper says that not only did he not know about his chief of staff's "gift" to repay Senator Mike Duffy's expenses before the story broke in the media, he was not consulted and did not sign off on Nigel Wright's decision to write a personal cheque. more »
- Mayor Ford stays silent while his brother defends him
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford continues to stonewall the media over allegations that he was recorded on video smoking what appears to be crack cocaine, but his brother Coun. Doug Ford told reporters Wednesday that the story is untrue. more »
- 'You will see him again in heaven,' Sharlene Bosma tells daughter
- Sharlene Bosma told more than 1,000 people at the public memorial service for her slain husband, Tim Bosma, about the love they shared. more »
- Obama to visit Oklahoma following deadly tornado
- Rescue workers raced to complete the search for survivors and the dead in the Oklahoma City suburb where a mammoth tornado destroyed countless homes, cleared lots down to bare red earth and claimed 24 lives, including those of nine children. more »
Latest Business Headlines
- Cooling housing market will cost us 150,000 jobs, mortgage group warns
- The government's effots to cool the housing market will have a negative impact on the economy and the range of industries that depend on house sales — everything from mortgage financing to furniture and appliance sales — the group that represents the mortgage industry says. more »
- German software firm SAP plans to hire hundreds with autism
- German software firm SAP says it wants to hire hundreds of people with autism to work as programmers and testers for its products. more »
- Bernanke cautious about removing stimulus
- U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke told lawmakers Wednesday that the country's job market and economy are too weak to consider ending the central bank's extraordinary stimulus programs. more »
- High-profile CEOs got $162K in planes, homes and other perks
- In the exclusive world of CEO perks, company-paid bodyguards, chauffeurs, private jets and second homes are the norm. The median value of perks received by CEOs of big public companies was nearly $162,000 in 2012, an increase of more than nine per cent over the previous year, according to executive pay research firm Equilar. more »
- 1/3 of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque, survey suggests
- Almost a third of Canadian households report never or almost never having any money left to save after paying their bills, according to a new study issued Wednesday. more »
Lang & O'Leary Exchange
The data on this site is informational only and may be delayed; it is not intended as trading or investment advice and you should not rely on it as such.
- 2nd suspect named in Tim Bosma slaying
- 'You will see him again in heaven,' Sharlene Bosma tells daughter
- Over 1 million Montrealers face boil water advisory
- Video forensics: How easy would it be to fake a Rob Ford video?
- Man shot dead during FBI interview for Boston bombing probe
- Plumber's car explodes near Vancouver apartments
- Jodi Arias asks for 'second chance' during jail interview
- Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart crack jokes about Rob Ford
- Ford ally says mayor told to limit comments on alleged crack video