My favorite part of the day has got to be the opportunity to de-stress and just get into the legal musings on the current happenings in the fashion and entertainment industry. Love it! Hope you have had a fantastic day. So, what’s on my mind today? Naomi Campbell’s testimony in the Charles Taylor “Blood Diamond” trial.
This week is pre-trial mode for me in anticipation for trial so it only makes sense. The courtroom is to me what a recording studio is to a musician, an atelier to a designer or a set to an actor. My favorite part of being in court is trial and specifically cross-examination. 🙂 Okay. I digress.
Quick Facts on Taylor Trial:
“Charles Taylor (former President) of Liberia is charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Sierra Leone from November 30, 1996, to January 18, 2002. The Prosecutor alleges that Mr. Taylor is responsible for crimes which include murdering and mutilating civilians, including cutting off their limbs; using women and girls as sex slaves; and abducting children adults and forcing them to perform forced labor or become fighters during the conflict in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Taylor is charged on the basis that he allegedly backed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels fighting in Sierra Leone; that he had links with senior leaders in the RUF—such as Foday Sankoh, Sam Bockarie (a.k.a. Mosquito), Issa Sesay, and others—in addition to a second warring faction, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC); and that he was responsible for Liberian forces fighting in support of the Sierra Leonean rebels.
The specific counts against Mr. Taylor are:
• Five counts of war crimes: terrorizing civilians, murder, outrages on personal dignity, cruel treatment, and looting;
• Five counts of crimes against humanity: murder, rape, sexual slavery, mutilating and beating, and enslavement; and
• One count of other serious violations of international humanitarian law: recruiting and using child soldiers.” ~Charles Taylor Defense
How Does Naomi Campbell Fit into all this? The prosecutors claim that in September of 1997, Taylor gave Campbell a gift of uncut diamonds after a dinner in Pretoria, South Africa, hosted by President Nelson Mandela.
And so what? The Prosecutors argue that Taylor brought the diamonds to South Africa to buy arms for the Sierra Leone rebel groups that he sponsored and helped direct in the Sierra Leone war.
What’s the significance of the Campbell’s testimony? It goes to prove the alleged charges by the prosecutors.
Why Did Campbell have to be Subpoenaed? Let’s step back for a minute and really digest this in the context of you, as a fashion and entertainment industry professional, receiving a subpoena to testify in court.
What happens if you find yourself forced to testify in court as part of a trial?
- Party Requesting Your Appearance Issues a Subpoena: When parties in a lawsuit get to trial, they must put on evidence to prove their case. Such evidence primarily comes through testimonies from witnesses. How do we get a witness to show up and testify? Trial lawyers, “subpoena” the witness i.e. send them a legal document that forces them to show up to court. Why? Because most people, unless they are trial lawyers, typically do not want anything to do with a courthouse or courtroom, ever. For many, being in court is a traumatic and very uncomfortable experience. As a result, lawyers have to force witnesses to show up and they do so through subpoenas.
- Consequences of Ignoring Subpoenas: If you ignore a subpoena, the court can issue a bench warrant for your arrest as well as find you in “contempt of court” which is never a good thing. In addition, you can also be fined and/or jailed. We don’t need the drama. So, when you get the subpoena, show up.
- Now what? What does it really mean when you show up for trial? Observe the video clip below from Campbell’s testimony.
- Why are you being called to testify? The reason you are called to testify in court is to shed light on the facts at issue and to your knowledge testify to what you heard, saw and did to help the “trier of fact” i.e. the jury or judge decide the case. It really is that simple. Obviously the party that subpoenas you wants a favorable testimony from you.
- What about the all too Familiar ‘You Can’t Handle the Truth’ Scene from ‘A Few Good Men’ ? Love that scene! But in reality, trial lawyers are not necessarily sharks waiting to attack you. Okay, so I lie. Some are. Me? Never! 🙂 In all seriousness it depends on the “attitude” or when a witness becomes a “hostile witness.” Let me paint the scenario a bit for you.
Direct Testimony: Campbell gives testimony in the Taylor trial; she has been subpoenaed by the prosecutor. She in fact testifies she received “dirty stones” from Taylor. Her testimony is direct. It is non- adversarial. It is more of story telling of what happened, how it happened, what she did and said. Assume she becomes defensive, rude and has an “attitude” with the prosecutor, she would be declared a “hostile witness” and treated as if she was on cross-examination.
Cross Examination: Campbell has now finished telling her story. It sounds so perfect, credible and makes Taylor look really bad. The prosecution’s case looks great until Taylor’s defense attorney gets up during cross examination and begins testing the strength of her story. He begins poking holes in Campbell’s testimony. How does the defense do this? The defense can “impeach” Campbell by showing:
- Bias & prejudice
- Prior inconsistent statement with what was said outside vs. in court
- Criminal convictions, if applicable
- Bad acts, if applicable
- A propensity to lie, if applicable
Alright. Enough for today.
Check out my favorite scene from A Few Good Men
Now Watch Naomi Campbell’s Testimony
FASHIONENTLAW blog, authored by Ms. Uduak, was first established in 2010. It is now incorporated, in 2021, as part of the FASHIONENTLAW LAW FIRM blog. The blog is for informational purposes only and provides legal commentary and analysis on the intersection of mainstream America pop culture and the law. It also provides updates on Ms. Uduak’s speaking engagements and press activities. For inquiries on topics covered please email (firstname.lastname@example.org).