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Pull Up A Chair…


It's freezing cold here this morning and, while I was in DC covering the Libby trial, my birdfeeders emptied as the birds sought some food and refuge during the spate of winter storms that we have been having.  Not a lot of accumulation overall at this point, but enough that there has been a fine sheen of ice on the roads most days and still cold enough that all of the feathers are fluffed out on the visitors this morning.  I just had time to refill the feeders a few minutes ago, and already the ravenous horde of song sparrows and house finches has descended, with the polite little Carolina wren hopping to and fro on the hood of my car, waiting his turn.

It is good to be home. 

As much as the hustle and bustle of the trial, the incredible spectacle of media and political intersection, the riveting testimony, the palpably growing feeling of anticipation in that courtroom for even more testimony to come, there really is no substitute for coming back to your own nest.  But wow, what a week in DC for me.

On day one of the opening statements, I rode up in the elevator that morning with Wells, Jeffress, Scooter and Mrs. Libby.  Libby was very courtly, holding the elevator door open so that I could get in without being smacked by a door, saying "Please, you go first." while smiling with his mouth and trying to pull back a bit of the worry in his eyes.  I have seen a lot of people on trial over the years, and they are always trying to smile and hide the worry on the advice of counsel.  So much of courtroom drama is just that…drama. 

Mrs. Libby is quite lovely, dark hair, always wearing a beautiful scarf, trying to stay calm under all of that pressure.  Once on the elevator, I got into a conversation with Jeffress about the "math geek" conversations that he, Wells and Fitz had been having with Judge Walton regarding the procedure for jury selection strikes on Monday.  Perhaps you have to be a lawyer or a math person to get the hilarity of the discussion on this sort of minutiae, but we had a good laugh about it nonetheless.  Jeffress is the sort of trial attorney who is detail oriented and meticulous in his presentations, but who can laugh about the absurdity of the law around the edges — the kind of person with whom I likely would have been chummy had this been my local courthouse on a day to day basis, and it was odd realizing that having covered his representation of Libby for so long.  Wells has a much more flamboyant style, he's much more old school trial attorney, and that was never my cup of legal tea — the sort of person who would have been a colleague for me, but not exactly a pal, you know? 

Libby spent the rest of the day looking over at me on the press bench and smiling a little, perhaps thinking he'd found a kindred math spirit or something.  (Barbara Comstock disabused him of that when she realized who he was looking at…somehow, I don't think I'm her favorite for some reason.  Ahem.)

Later that day, Patrick Fitzgerald held the door open for me to re-enter the courtroom after a break.  He was a little fumbly with the "no please, you go ahead" in that way that men have when they are either shy or thinking about other things but trying to remember their manners.  He is very tall and much more soft spoken in person that I anticipated — must be that Jesuit training — but when he gets annoyed with defense counsel tactics, watch out.  That male pattern bald spot of his creeps into a bright pink, as the anger moves up from his neck, and his voice roars out in disgusted indignation.  Fitz gets his Irish up very calmly, very matter of factly, and much in the way that you would never want to be the recipient of it, I can tell you that.

The media folks are a mix of personalities and knowledge about the case and the law.  I really enjoyed getting to know a number of them — and enjoyed talking about the case, and haggling the facts and pointing a few of them to some great resources (like eRiposte for the Niger documents).  I have to say, in all honesty, that getting to meet Nina Totenberg was an honor and a thrill for me — I have loved her Supreme Court summaries at the end of each term for as long as I can remember, and the humor that she injects into each one along with the legal analysis was one of the reasons that the practice of law called to me.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to thank her for that while she was there because we were all so caught up in trial details every day, but thank you, Nina. 

I am so grateful to Judge Walton and his wonderful staff who granted us the press passes.  Judge Walton's actions with the jury are designed to empower them, to bring them into the heart of the legal process — they are told they are "judges of the facts," they are allowed to ask questions of the witnesses (by writing the question out on a 3×5 card, and then the judge and attorneys haggle over what is or is not relevant, and then the witness is asked any appropriate question); and by allowing each juror to take notes througout the trial in notebooks that they may then use to refresh their own memories during deliberations.  This is wonderful, and has led to a very active, very involved and attentive jury — which, considering the detail in this case, is a very good thing for all sides.

Most of all, though, I am so grateful to all of you for helping us to fund this venture and for giving us so much support for covering this case along the way.  Being able to describe all of this in as much detail as we can for you is a pleasure — it is always more fun to have someone to share this sort of conversation with, and we honestly could not ask for a better bunch of folks in our comments and reading the blog and sending feedback via e-mail.   All through the week last week, when I would get tired or feel mentally drained, I'd remind myself that you all were depending on us to get this coverage right and to do it thoroughly, and that would spur me forward with more detail and a renewed sense of purpose, and I thank you for that because it pushed me to do an even better job than I otherwise might have done.

Sitting here this morning in the calm of my kitchen, looking back on the whirlwind of the week last week…well, it seems a bit surreal, to be perfectly honest.  In a good way, mind you.

But today, I'm going to spend hanging out with The Peanut and Mr. ReddHedd, mulling over some of the bits and pieces in the back of my mind for a post later in the weekend, but mainly relaxing and helping The Peanut ease back into her regular routine.  I've been missed by my girl, and she's been missed right back.  Am hoping to get some time this weekend to peek at the seed catalogs that arrived while I was gone — the beautiful flowers on the covers beckon to me with all the frozen landscape outside. 

But I cannot help but think about the lawyers on both sides of this trial — they'll get no relaxation this weekend.  I'm certain that motions and response briefs are flying fast and furious between the two.  We already know that a subpoena went out for Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett from Team Libby (according to Isikoff in Newsweek), and with Cathie Martin still on the stand and Ari Fleischer on deck…it's only going to get more complicated in terms of the twists and malignant turns within the Bush Administration and Vice President Cheney's office as we go forward.

Part of my mind is still whirring back in DC this morning, but another part is breathing a sigh of relief to be out of the maelstrom and back home.  I'm going to pour myself another cuppa coffee.  You do the same, and pull up a chair…

PS — Bob Geiger has some hilarious cartoons this morning.  hehehe

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com