The Corner

Veep as Libby Trial Witness?

The NYTimes reports this morning that Libby independent counsel Pat Fitzgerald may call Vice President Cheney as a witness at the trial (now scheduled for January 2007).

As usual in this case, there is probably less here than meets the eye.  Apparently, Libby’s lawyers have indicated that they were under the impression the government would not call the Veep.  When defense lawyers say such things, and the prosecutor believes they are mistaken, the ethical thing is for the prosecutor to correct the misimpression so that the defense does not prepare for trial under a false assumption.  I’d bet that is all that’s going on here.

Most of the time when issues like this come up in trials, both sides are more-or-less in agreement about what the witness’s testimony would be, and the real argument is about whether that testimony is relevant to issues in dispute. 

What usually happens is the judge hears arguments and then makes a ruling about relevance.  If the information is deemed irrelevant, that is the end of the matter.  If it is deemed relevant, the parties can generally work out a stipulation.  This is just an agreement that advises the jury of what the witness would have stated but avoids the need to have the witness come to court and testify. 

If the judge decides testimony from the Veep is relevant, I think we are a lot more likely to see such a stipulation than to see the Veep actually summoned to the witness stand.

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