[My webhost is apparently load balancing their servers and moved this site to another server, which consequently lost the last couple of entries and the accompayning posts. I will Reconstruct both the entries and the posts later today. And I will put up a full entry as well. UPDATE: I have reposted the comments that were lost from 6-17 & 6-18 under this entry.]
There are no jury deliberations today as there was an unexpected “emergency” conflict.
In a Reuters report, Scrushy has said that his father died this morning: The story had a quote where Scrushy is saying that he wanted his father to know the family name was cleared, before he died. I have often said that this was what it was all about, from Scrushy’s own words and declarations, this was always what it was about. It wasn’t about all the people who got hurt: employees, patients, customers and investors. It was always about the name and what money and power should do for a name, or how much these things can erase Selma roots. It is so sad that Gerald Scrushy couldn’t even die in peace, without his son dragging him into a massive fraud, without him being used, even in his death, as he has used so many others. It is so sad that Richard Scrushy couldn’t have used the occassion to talk about his father’s life, or his love for him, or whatever good things Gerald Scrushy might have been as a father and a person, and instead, had to make it all about him. He doesn’t mean to do it. I’m fairly convinced of that. But everything from religion to family to children to employees to customers has always been relegated to satellites around Richard Scrushy as the sun. Anyway, my condolences to the family and my admiration that he did indeed attend the trial every day.
The Cynthia Tucker Atlanta Constitution article and the Scrushy response.
[I’m actually mentioned in the McPhillips retraction letter. It says that closing argument is available on “the blogger’s cite [sic].” Nice to see that they noticed, huh. I’ve been meaning to write a retrospective and perhaps that is the set-up. So look for that this week. ]
It’s been a war. It has been a war and there has evolved a bunker mentality for the denizens of the courthouse. Five months ago, we ascended the steps of the golden mountain, at Hugo L. Black courthouse, fresh faced and expectant, like the people who founded a company twenty years ago in a city built one hundred years before that; and a hundred years after the founding of a nation. From the time the first ships entered Mobile Bay, we all look for something. In a nation that is famous for both, some have sought justice and some wanted a day in court. Some just wanted Truth, while others sought the answers to questions that still make such little sense. And like all wars, it was ugly in the trenches and a tribute to how far we have to go before we can really claim to be civilized. Filmmakers and writers have always known that the uneven battlefield will always be a fertile ground for stories because conflict begets passon. There is triumph, hate, fear, love and anger. Look around the courthouse and woven into the fabric of a witness droning on about contractual adjustments or weekly revenue reports are all of the elements that make up this passion, and it is their interaction that makes the conflict. And in that conflict lies the Truth. We wait for that. It has been thirty-four days since the jury went out, and one hundred forty-eight days since Martin and Parkman and Leach gave their opening arguments.
My lack of long entries over the last few days is not a tribute to having little to say, with the jury out. On the contrary, there is a nearly an overflowing feeling that there is too much to say and too much to write about. Topics abound, either from the daily drama that is still swirling about the courthouse, or from the various people I have talked to about this story. And there are still a few who haven’t phoned home, but sooner or later they will, if they want this whole thing to get out.
And it has certainly been a long trial where people have variously complained about the prosecution, the defense, the court, the jurors and the sometimes bombastic spectacle on the courthouse steps. (And Me!) Richard Scrushy has been seen and has portrayed himself variously as a passionate defender of government persecution, of victimization by a crafty cadre of people headed up by the self-professed smartest man alive, or after a mood shift, as his former autocratic snarling persona who doesn’t owe anyone nothing and couches threats of a scorched earth policy to come, and finally, as the pious leader of the prayer circle. There has been no shortage of imagery in a trial where it seems that either everyone knows Scrushy is guilty or everyone knows he is innocent or pure. In an ordeal where there is a premium on knowledge and truth, there aren’t many people who don’t know, there are not many observers who feel they don’t know what conclusion the jury should arrive at. And I say ‘should’ because most people also know the jury has a mind of its own. No one (except perhaps Glynn Wilson) is willing to bet on an outcome with certainty. Hopefully, whatever happens will be reflected in the totality of these notes, as I have tried to show both the highs and lows of the government and the defense cases.
In a stepwise progression of the defense strategy, it appears they are running out of ammunition, and getting to the worse case scenario of firing blanks. Certain parts of the strategy seem to have had at least a partial effect, but as the jury deliberates to an inevitable conclusion, it appears that the efforts will either be just enough to influence justice but they’re in danger of falling short. I have written several times that although it may not be his fault, and he certainly did not mean to do it, but the charisma that swept a company into madness may have irrevocably corrupted his defense team. We’ll see what will happen when the jury comes back, and there will be time enough to assemble the evidence, but a line here and a statement there, and it looks like there may be ample evidence for this notion. The recent intra-jury events underscore this problem that began as a crack and may become a fissure that could possible hold for a verdict in this trial, but would rip the next one apart. Scrushy’s lawyers are threatening to sue The Atlanta Constitution for the Cynthia Tucker editorial and the Birmingham News for running it. Suing over an opinion piece is dicey at best, but this action, as well as their requested retraction, is rather problematic and seems to show a level of desperation henceforth not yet aspired to, by the defense. Of course, controlling information via lawsuits has been nothing new, for Scrushy, but there were sometimes good reason to do so. The first thing to note is that the publicity grabbing measure of the threatened lawsuit and the letter requesting a retraction was rather underreported. This indicates a saturation level. Like ho-hum, another lawsuit. And statements by Watkins, throughout this case, have not been his finest hour, culminating in the jaw-dropping closing argument. Watkins has said he might not be around for the next case, and it is likely that his reputation could suffer as he continues to spew out language and statements that tend to defy sensibility. To be fair, I’m not saying everything Watkins has said has little value or that he is not good at what he does, or anything of the sort. I frankly don’t know. But I do believe he has gotten too close to the flame, like many before him, and he really isn’t making much sense anymore. I do think if there is a Part II, he will distance himself from the team, before his wings get completely singed off. I’ve only been able to watch the Scrushy show on WOTM about a half dozen times, because my hotels usually don’t carry it, but I happened to be in one that does when they were showing an interview with Watkins, about the Tucker article. He said a couple of amazing things: He accused Tucker (or vaguely the other side) of playing the race card; and he openly worried about an effort to manipulate the public. It was one of those moments that makes you just want to laugh out loud, but you can’t. You just can’t. You want to count to ten. You want to take a walk just to feel and experience the world and reassure yourself that it is still as you left it.
Let’s go to the record: From Scrushy’s biography, on his website, there is this line.
Born in 1952 in Selma, Alabama, a town known as the birthplace of the civil-rights movement Richard Scrushy is now fighting for his own rights and freedoms in the face of false allegations.
I first wrote about this line over a year ago, and I said that although it is a little weird for a white guy from Selma to get all proud about its connection to the civil rights movement, it is just typical bluster, but the second part of the line is disgusting. When it says “Richard Scrushy is fighting for his own rights and freedoms” he is linking a massive fraud to a movement to change the world. He is interjecting his problems into the struggle. And the race card was played long ago. As I’ve always done, I want to be clear, I am not suggesting that Scrushy should not proclaim his innocence. He has a right to do that, and I expect him to. But there are acceptable ways to do this.
From the trial transcript:
Watkins: You know what happened? One day, one day, a judge like her, jurors like you, you come in as strangers to each other, strangers to me, said, no, no, no, no, Mrs. Watkins’ little boy can drink out of any water fountain that works.
Later on, they said, he could go get him a little job somewhere throwing papers or picking up coca-cola bottles and selling him, he can take his fifty cents or a dollar and go to any lunch counter that he can buy a hamburger.[etc. etc.]
Watkins said that he was saying the jurors had the power to change things, and that was what he was talking about. That is a version. But his choice of imagery was very specific, and the card was played. It is easy enough to add extra commentary, like on the Scrushy show, to explain what he meant and to narrow the focus, but semantics doesn’t work that way. Watkins is a lawyer, and he knows that. To be fair, or to be complete, he also invoked other cloying pandering images, like the call to patriotism, and the tie-in with terrorism. He hasn’t yet bought the baseball team yet, but he was touching all of the bases. The effectiveness of his closing argument spectacle remains to be seen, but I do not necessarily have a problem with him using language to try to win a case for his client. That’s the way the system works. But he did spuriously invoke race, and I have a problem with the defense having the audacity to sue someone who calls him on it.
Also in that interview, Watkins criticized Tucker for writing an article after never spending a day in the courtroom. I spent a few days in court. Every day. I know for a fact that the Atlanta Constitution spent at least some days in court via this website. I would like to think it was a fairly accurate representation of what went on there, and that people who could not attend the proceedings could use this site, in conjunction with the media outlets, to discuss what happened as if they were there. (Kyle from the Birmingham Weekly and I were talking, the other day, about how we were the only ones with a perfect attendance record, with the CBS guy—some news organizations were represented every day, but not by the same person. And I may have been the only one, along with CBS, to brave the hard benches every day.)
There is some evidence that the community influence or manipulation may boomerang back on the defense. Beyond the loyal cadre of supporters and people from the churches, many blacks in the community are building up a resentment that they are being manipulated, and that they are being thought to support Scrushy by way the things he has supposed to have done for the community. I am continuing to research this, but the effect of this backlash would certainly be felt in a retrial. Whereas it has been thought that blacks may be inclined to by sympathetic to Scrushy in this trial, it might be equally likely that some blacks would come to the jury pool with just-below-the-surface resentments. Remember that perception is everything. Even if defense claims are taken at face value, that Scrushy’s community activities have little to do with his current predicament, there is a perception throughout the community that it does.
Some of my best friends are Trophy Wives. I mean that. His defenders were quick to also jump on Tucker for her use of the term and I think it is more demeaning to think that Leslie Scrushy really needs these men to jump in and defend her honor. She is what she is and she believes in her husband. Rich older guys who marry younger secretaries who are former beauty queens could be thought to be marrying Trophy Wives. Incidentally, Trophy Wives sometimes acquire strengths and admirable attributes, as suggested by Scrushy’s defender, but they usually do not possess them at the time of their marriage. It is not for everyone, but there is nothing wrong with this. It certainly is not fodder for retraction. And in some very real ways, it works in her favor, allowing us to focus on her religious and moral strength which she uses to support her husband, so we can forget about the embarrassment of the cash-infused secretary declaring herself a clothing designer.
As always, even though they work and are paid for by them, it seems the Scrushy’s would be better served if some of their defenders would stay off their side.
And finally, my heart goes out to the Scrushy’s in the passing of Gerald Scrushy. It has indeed been a long trial, a war. Some don’t come back. Some are changed forever. My mother’s been gone since just before the trial and the trial makes it seem longer ago. A couple of months ago, a kid was spending spring break in my beach house, in Florida, just a week before he was in a car accident. Now he is a sixteen year old vegetable. His flesh survives but his life is over. March 31st was the two-year anniversary of two discordant things: Scrushy being fired by HealthSouth, and the accident that eventually killed my wife. And here we are in the bunker, after all this time, waiting in the courthouse. Both sides hoping it might bring an end to future conflicts while both sides know it won’t.