FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Posada’s Tango

by JOSÉ PERTIERRA

It’s one thing for an attorney to zealously defend his client’s interests and quite another for him to embrace the defendant’s premises.  An attorney is most effective, when he keeps a certain critical distance.

Here in El Paso, Luis Posada Carriles’ attorney has adopted his client’s cause as his own—thus coloring his cross-examination to the point of silliness.  His nutty questions about Cuba are pregnant with the false postulates of certain exiles in Little Havana who haven’t set foot on Cuban soil in more than five decades.  It’s evident that the Miami defense attorney hasn’t done his research.

The art of cross-examination

A good defense attorney takes charge during cross-examination, but he should be careful that the jurors do not perceive him as abusive of the witness.  The secret is in being able to develop a narrative for the jury, through skillful questions, that is convincing yet different from the story the witness wants to tell.

But if the jurors feel that the attorney is bullying the witness, the cross-examination backfires.  And if the questions are fraught with dubious assumptions, the witness can easily disarm them and expose the attorney’s theory of the case as sheer fantasy.

Many of the questions posed today by defense attorney Arturo Hernández to Ann Louise Bardach revealed more about the attorney, than the witness.

The attack begins

Hernández arrived this morning in a dark grey suit, white shirt and purple tie.  With a furrowed brow and reddened ears, he adjusted his spectacles on the tip of his nose and began firing away at the witness.

“Having established, Ms. Bardach, that you have been in Cuba 10 times and that you have interviewed Fidel Castro on two occasions, isn’t it true that only people who are trusted by the Comandante manage to obtain an interview?” Hernández asked.

With that question, the hand-to-hand combat that began yesterday between the Miami attorney and the journalist from California, resumed.  “That’s not true,” answered Bardach.

“Isn’t it true that only journalists favored by the regime are granted the privilege of interviewing the Comandante?”

Annoyed by his cynicism, Bardach raised her voice and said, “That’s not true, Mr. Hernández.  The correspondents Maria Shriver, Ted Koppel, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings have also interviewed him.  Do you think that they’re all agents of the Cuban Revolution?”

Attorney Hernández then showed a photograph to the witness for identification.  “It’s a photograph that shows me with Fidel Castro,” said Bardach.

“The photograph shows you in close proximity to the Comandante,” said Hernández, sneering each time he said Fidel Castro’s rank.  Without knowing where Hernández was headed with this question, Bardach answered, “Yes.  This is our sit-down interview,” and shrugged her shoulders.

“Is that a pen in your hand?” asked the defense attorney?  Without waiting for the answer to the question, Hernández asked another, “Isn’t it true that journalists are not allowed to interview Fidel Castro with a pen in their hand?”  “I’ve never heard such a thing,” answered Bardach.

“Isn’t it true that journalists are forbidden to sit so close to Fidel Castro?” inquired the Miami attorney.  Incredulous, Bardach answered, “No, that’s not true.”

I feel slandered

“But isn’t it true that you have a history of writing articles critical of the Cuban American community in Miami?” asked Hernández.

Bardach, who has earned numerous prizes and recognition for excellence in journalism—including a place on a Miami Herald top ten books list—reacted sharply.  “That’s not true, sir, and you know it.”  “I don’t demonize anyone in my stories.  I feel as if I am being slandered here.”

Hernández then asked Bardach several more times why hadn’t she interviewed or written previously about dissidents in Cuba.  In vain Bardach tried to explain to the Miami attorney that she had spoken with dissidents in Cuba and even spent quite a bit of time with General Patricio de la Guardia, the twin brother of Colonel Tony de la Guardia, who was executed in Cuba along with General Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989 for drug-trafficking and treason.  Patricio de la Guardia received a 30-year prison sentence.  He is now serving the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.

“Are you referring to the Patricio de la Guardia who is the paid assassin of Fidel Castro?” asked Hernández, looking toward the jury.  “I’ve never heard that,” said Bardach.  “Look, Mr. Hernández, you know that Mr. Posada’s sister is a colonel in the Cuban army.  Let’s not criminalize everybody who lives in that country,” the thoroughly irritated Bardach answered.

Hernández is known to ask the same question in a variety of ways during cross-examination, and so he asked again, “You think that you haven’t written critically about the Cuban-American community?”

“Look, Mr. Hernández,” answered Bardach.  “The truth is that there are people in that community that have broken the law.”  She offered the example of David Rivera, a Cuban American congressman from Miami who is under investigation for financial irregularities, as well as Jorge Mas Canosa, linked to, “That funny business with Miami County.  The entire community is not tarnished simply because of the mistakes of certain individuals,” stated Bardach.

Hernández: “Are you mocking me?”

Hernández directed Bardach’s attention to Cuba once again.  “The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) are instruments used by the Castro regime to maintain control of the country, isn’t that true?” asked the attorney.

“They also distribute food and help neighbors resolve certain daily problems,” she said.

The vein on the Miami attorney’s neck bulged and his face reddened.  “Are you mocking me?” he demanded.  “Fifty years of exile and you are telling me …?”

He didn’t finish the question.  Prosecutor Timothy J. Reardon rose and made an objection, which Judge Kathleen Cardone immediately sustained.  “Move on,” she said.  Hernández changed the subject, but only slightly.

“Didn’t you write in your book that the Miami community is a mirror image of the CDRs in Cuba?” he asked.

“Look, Mr. Hernández, the idea you are presenting here—that I have a dog in this fight—is a lie—sir,” Bardach answered.

The gap

There is a four-minutes-and-twenty-seconds gap within the more than six hours of tape recordings that Bardach made during her interview of Posada Carriles in June of 1998.

The defense attorney directed Bardach’s attention to it, “I want you to listen to the gap.”

A perplexed Bardach responded, “Mr. Hernández, I’m confused.  You want me to listen to a gap?”

That was exactly what attorney Hernández wanted.  For more than four long minutes, the judge, the attorneys, the prosecutors, the witness, the interpreters, the bailiffs, the clerks, the assistants, the jurors and the journalists listened to the gap in the tape.  “A dramatic pause,” as the prosecutor later referred to it.

At the end of the sound of silence, Hernández drew his finger across his throat and his colleague, Rhonda Anderson, switched off the recording.  “Ms. Bardach, now that we’ve heard a gap of four minutes and twenty seconds, you may explain to us what may have caused that.”

“I don’t know.  Perhaps someone pressed the wrong button when the transcript was made.  That sometimes happens.  But if anything significant had happened during that brief time, it would be in my notes—and there’s no indication of that,” answered Bardach.

“You erased that part of the recording?” Hernández asked accusingly.

“Please!  That’s absurd,” answered Bardach.  “I am in the information collecting—not the destroying—business.  I’m a journalist,” answered Bardach.

The size of the recorder

The defense attorney also accused Bardach of recording the interview without having sought his client’s permission.  “That’s almost funny.  The tape recorder was practically on Posada’s lap many times.  He himself turned it off when he didn’t want something recorded.  It’s huge.  It’s more than six inches high,” answered the journalist, mouthing an audible “duuuh.”

The jurors will remember the answers, not the questions

Hernández failed to impeach Bardach’s testimony.  He knew it.  He looked deflated.  Tomorrow he will have another opportunity, but today his questions didn’t hurt her.

Bardach proved to be difficult to cross-examine.  She is a brilliant and eccentric witness.  Hernández could not box her in.  She turned the tables on him, giving the jurors lengthy explanations that put Hernández’s questions into a context that suited her.

While on the stand, Bardach nearly drove the judge, the prosecutors and the defense attorney over the edge.  The jurors, however, clearly enjoyed her.  Bardach gave them a lesson on the role of Posada Carriles in the 1997 bombing campaign in Havana, as well as a history of the terrorism Cuba has faced over five decades, including the role played by the Cuban American National Foundation.

Today the jurors will remember Bardach’s stories, not Hernández’s questions.

The tango and the confession

The day ended with a clip from the interview.  The jurors heard the unmistakable voice of Posada Carriles, but in the background they also heard a trio singing one of Carlos Gardel’s most famous tangos:

El día que me quieras

no habrá más que armonía.

Será clara la aurora

y alegre el manantial.

Traerá quieta la brisa

rumor de melodía.

Y nos darán las fuentes

su canto de cristal.

El día que me quieras

endulzará sus cuerdas

el pájaro cantor.

Florecerá la vida

no existirá el dolor.

(The day that you love me/There’ll be only harmony/The dawn will be clear/and the spring joyful./The breeze will carry a quiet/hint of melody./And the fountains will give us/their crystal song./The day that you love me,/the songbird’s call/will be sweetened./Life will blossom,/there will be no pain.)

In the foreground, Posada was singing a different sort of tango, one about being the mastermind behind the bombings in Havana and the murder of Fabio Di Celmo in the Copacabana Hotel.

Bardach: So, you’re like … “el jefe.”

Posada: Sí.

Bardach: The mastermind …

Posada: Compartmentalized … I know everybody but they don’t know [me] …”

Bardach: So you were saying … the intention was to scare off the tourists, not to kill the tourists.

Posada: Yeah.  Sure.

Bardach: But one, you know, one person was killed.

Posada: Yeah.  But you know what happened?

Bardach: No.

Posada: Sixty feet away … here was this poor guy … in the chair …

Bardach: Yeah.

Posada: … and the bits … small …

Bardach: Shrapnel …

Posada: … ahhh … and took the jugular.  This was the unluckiest guy in the world … because it took the jugular … It’s sad … because it is not our intention …  But we can’t stop because … eh … that Italian was sit down … at the wrong time … at the wrong place.

José Pertierra practices law in Washington, DC.  He represents the government of Venezuela in the case to extradite Luis Posada Carriles.

Translated by Machetera and Manuel Talens.  They are members of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity.

Spanish language version: http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2011/03/23/diario-de-el-paso-el-tango-de-posada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

José Pertierra is an attorney in Washington, DC.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail