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A lawyer’s job is to protect the client, but sometimes the legal tactics seem more like childlike mischief than strategy. That is how defense attorney Theodore Wells Jr. appeared last week when he tried to delay the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. Just before the prosecution was about to call its fourth witness, Wells told Judge Reggie Walton he would need more time to review the original copies of that witness’s notes, which he had just received from the government that morning. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald objected. “They’ve had copies of the notes for a year,” he protested. Wells, grinning, said he’d been asking for the originals for six days and needed them “because you couldn’t read the copies.” Growing visibly disturbed (a rarity for the even-keeled prosecutor), Fitzgerald replied, “With all due respect, the copies were legible.” Standing side by side at the podium, the two tall and broad-shouldered attorneys seemed like children begging a parent to side with them. Walton, who called Fitzgerald “one of the most scrupulous prosecutors” he’d seen, wanted to trust that Wells, an officer of the court, was not lying. Trying to assure Fitzgerald, Walton raised his voice and issued a stern warning: “If he’s lying, I’d punish him for it.” Fitzgerald wasn’t about to give up — he grabbed a small handful of pages to show Walton. These, he said, counting each at the podium, are the only ones in question. Walton did a double take. “I thought we were talking about reams and reams of documents,” he said, denying Wells’ request. “With all the lawyer power you’ve got over there, I don’t think you’ll have any problem.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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