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Toronto criminal lawyer Eddie Greenspan represented Conrad Black at his criminal trial in Chicago. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Toronto criminal lawyer Eddie Greenspan represented Conrad Black at his criminal trial in Chicago. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

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Edward Greenspan rebuts Conrad Black Add to ...

We vigorously objected to the use of this statute – and that was critical. There would have been no appeal on that ground if we had not objected to putting that statute to the jury. That's how appellate law works; that's the work of trial counsel. Lay the groundwork. It's boring for observers. It is water buffalo stuff, but in the end it wins or loses cases.

Critical errors in judgment

So when the trial ended with the major allegations dismissed and the seeds sown for an appellate victory, I urged Conrad to characterize the result as a substantial defeat for the prosecution. I suggested that we hold a press conference to express satisfaction with the partial victory we had achieved and our expectation of complete vindication on appeal.

To my deep regret, he would not permit me to do so. Instead, the prosecutors, who had been shattered by the verdict, met with a media consultant, and they held their press conference. They announced that they had won the case, were ecstatic with the result and would seek a 40-year sentence – as if they had won a conviction on every charge. Their spin doctor earned his fee.

At the time, I didn't understand why Conrad Black didn't want me to do what needed to be done: shape the climate in which the trial judge would do her sentencing. I think that, reading this book, I finally do. He writes that when I said to him the verdict amounted to a vindication, what I really meant was that it was a victory for me, personally. Of all that he has written, this is in some ways the saddest passage. My statement to him was a sincere response to the verdict. Conrad's book has finally made it clear to me how much confusion underlay his refusal to allow that press conference.

But the most inappropriate statement about his counsel is elsewhere in the book and needs to be addressed.

Conrad writes that during the trial he often dined with journalist Mark Steyn. In 2007, Mr. Steyn wrote an article in Maclean's magazine about Conrad's trial, in which he claimed that just before the case went to the jury, Eddie Genson and I demanded an additional million “bucks” each. Mr. Steyn wrote that “a day or two before closing arguments … is no time to pick a quarrel with your lawyers … so Conrad paid up.” The clear implication was that we had effectively extorted our client at a moment of vulnerability.

I drafted a letter to Maclean's, pointing out that this allegation by Mr. Steyn was a “complete fiction.” As a courtesy, I sent the draft to Conrad by e-mail. He responded the same day. He wrote: “I promptly, after the article came out, e-mailed Mark Steyn that his allegation against both of you of extortion was unfounded. There were some top-ups to the retainers toward the end of the trial, but there was nothing wrong with that. … I think you are right to rebut the allegation. If asked, I will support your version of this. Best wishes, Conrad.”

With Conrad's written agreement, I felt confident that this ugly suggestion of extortion was put to rest.

But now it has come back. Amazingly, Conrad wrote in his book that “Mark Steyn produced a fierce diatribe against Greenspan and Genson in Maclean's, highlighting their lifting of 2.2 million dollars from me just as the trial was ending to pad their retainers.”

So he repeats the allegation of extortion that he told Mr. Steyn was “unfounded,” but hides behind Mr. Steyn and repackages his original fiction. There may be nothing quite so shabby in the book.

I am accustomed to clients blaming their lawyers for their woes. All criminal lawyers deal with that. But this speaks to integrity and ethics, the underpinning of a career. A response was required as a matter of principle.

Edward Greenspan is a Toronto defence lawyer.

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