Today was the worst day for the defence since the start of the trial, as their expert witnesses failed to cope with the sheer aggression of cross-examination by the US Government and found themselves backing away from maintaining propositions they knew to be true. It was uncomfortable viewing.
It was not that the prosecution had in any way changed their very systematic techniques of denigrating and browbeating; in fact the precise prosecution template was once again followed. It goes like this.
- undermine academic credentials as not precisely relevant
- humiliate by repeated memory test questions of precise phrasing of obscure regulations or definitions
- denigrate relevance of practical experience
- iterate official positions and challenge witness to say they are expressed by named officials in bad faith
- humiliate by asking witness to repeat from memory regulations for expert testimony in UK courts
- run though a list of qualifications and government positions relevant to the subject and make witness say one by one they have not held them
- claim testimony is biased or worthless because it does not include government assertions at full length.
You will note that none of this has anything to do with the truth of the actual evidence, and to date almost all witnesses have easily, sometimes contemptuously, seen off this intellectually shallow method of attack. But today was another story. The irony was that, when it came to the real subject matter of the evidence, it was obvious to any reasonable person that the prosecution claims of the good conditions in the American Prison service for high profile national security prisoners are just nonsense. But it was a day when the divorce between truth and court process was still plainer than usual. Given the horrific reality this process was disguising, it was a hard day to sit through.
First to give evidence by videolink was Yancey Ellis. An attorney with a doctorate in law, Ellis has been practising for 15 years including five as a US Marine Judge Advocate. He currently practises in Alexandria, Virginia, where he is now private, having formally been a public defender. As such he is very familiar with the Alexandria Detention Centre where Assange would be held pre-trial.