I previously wrote a post about emotional outbursts at trial here. Emotional reactions to testimony are strictly forbidden in every courtroom. Donald Trump has managed to get away – sort of – with some outbursts. But, this will not last.
Apparently, Me. Trump decided to attend his civil fraud trial in New York when an important witness was set to testify. Doug Larson was an outside appraiser employed by a bank in 2013. His testimony concerned who at the Trump organization told him what and what he did regarding the value of 40 Wall Street, a major Trump property. Mr. Larson testified that he did not include capitalization rates when he appraised the building for a bank. The Trump lawyer, Lazaro Fields believed he had caught the appraiser in a lie. Mr. Fields shouted the follow-on question, “You lied yesterday, didn’t you?”
Allowing for some hyperbole by the news reporter, perhaps Mr. Fields did not actually shout? But, even so, that sort of grand-standing follow-on question is… well …. grand standing. There are less confrontational ways to ask the same question. And, since this is a non-jury trial, courtroom antics do not go over well with any judge. [But, to be fair, Fields’ courtroom antics may have been directed to his client, not the judge].
The other other Trump lawyer, Christopher Kise then stood up and talking apparently to the court, said the witness has rights and that he should be cautioned about perjury. [It is odd when a second lawyer interjects regarding a witness. Many judges will not allow it. It may be that Judge Engoron has so many issues to deal with that he must pick his battles.]
The AG lawyer then stood to object to the obvious witness intimidation tactics. Judge Engoron then asked the bailiff to escort the witness out of the courtroom. The Judge then asked both sides to calm down.
But, Kise continued to “shout” that the witness had changed his testimony. Donald Trump nodded his head in agreement. A second AG lawyer then stood, and half facing the audience, comprised of many reporters, said this was a nice “performance” for the press. Mr. Kise responded that he was not a government lawyer, he truly cared for the rights of witnesses. [you can’t make this stuff up!]
At that point, the Judge had enough. He said he wanted the witnesses to testify without disruptions. If Mr. Larson perjured himself, then he perjured himself. Judge Engoron meant that for purposes of today’s proceedings, it does not make a difference if the witness lied. Nothing changes. Any accusations of perjury would have to be made later in a different forum. Mr. Kise surely knows that, already.
The witness, Doug Larson, was then brought back into the courtroom. He resumed his testimony. At which point, Mr. Fields was again shouting that he had lied the day before. More objections, and finally the witness was allowed to proceed with his testimony.
And, outside the courtroom, Mr. Trump asserted that this sort of thing could not go on.
In most trials, it would be major deal if a lawyer shouted or engaged in obvious attempts to intimidate a witness. That Judge Engoron has, so far refrained from coming down on the Trump lawyers reflects the high profile nature of this trial and the likelihood that they want to antagonize the Judge. At some point, the Judge will crack down on there theatrics. See Business Insider report for more information here.
P.S. A day later, Christopher Kise, while engaging in a discussion with the Judge, was asked a question by the Judge’s female law clerk. Mr. Kise ignored her. The law clerk asked again. Kise, then snapped that he was talking only to the Judge. As the side bar discussion progressed, Kise poked fun at the AG attorney Colleen Flaherty’s intelligence. Ms. Flaherty told him to be respectful. Kise replied, “No.” [does he want to win his trial?] Later, the Judge made Mr. Kise apologize to the female law clerk and Ms. Flaherty.