Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Witness Performance Issues--Unmanned

Mike Manzo (pic), a former legislative aide to a corrupt Pennsylvania politician on trial in Harrisburg, Pa was on the witness stand today.  Manzo and his wife have already confessed their roles in this widespread corruption matter and are cooperating with prosecutors.  After giving his testimony against fromer Pennsylvania house minority whip, Mike Veon, the defense attorney, Dan Raynak lit into Manzo, attacking his credibility.  Let me quote the coverage from Mike Scolforo at the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"The intimate details of the sex life of a former legislative aide became fodder for the jury in a public corruption trial yesterday. The former aide, Mike Manzo, at one point explained to the jury that an affair he had with an aide ended prematurely because he struggled to perform sexually.  The revelation came as a defense attorney confronted Manzo with e-mails to and from then-girlfriend Angela Bertugli that appeared to contradict his earlier testimony by showing their relationship continued well after his June 2005 marriage.

Manzo and his wife, Rachel Manzo, both pleaded guilty last month and are cooperating with prosecutors in the case of former House Democratic Whip Mike Veon and three aides, all of whom are charged with diverting state government money for political gain.  'I had some inability to perform, so I was being treated for it,' testified Manzo, the former House Democratic chief of staff. 'So it was inappropriate but nothing additional happened.'

Under questioning by defense lawyer Dan Raynak, Manzo told the jury about e-mails he and Bertugli exchanged that showed them making plans to get together behind his wife's back. He admitted driving a state-owned car to meet with her and sending what Raynak called 'love letters on the taxpayers' dime.'  'It was intimate and it was inappropriate,' said Manzo, who also offered that he did not consider oral sex to meet the definition of intimate. He told Raynak that he continued to deceive his wife long after their marriage, even though he said she is the person with whom he is most truthful.   Leaving the courthouse, Manzo said he was comfortable with his testimony but declined to comment about when his affair ended.

'The issue he has been called to testify on is not his marital affairs,' Senior Deputy Attorney General E. Marc Costanzo said at the end of the day. 'The issue is: What criminal activity was he involved in?'

Raynak said Manzo changed his story twice, giving jurors something to consider in weighing his credibility. 'The relevance is whether or not you're willing to be candid with the person you're closest to in the world, and second of all - and more importantly - whether you're willing to be candid and honest with a jury about when it ended,' Raynak said after the court session."

Talk about getting unmanned, on the stand. 

I would have loved to have heard, the discussion in chambers among the attorneys and Judge.  You see, all of this is hashed out well in advance of Manzo's cross-examination, that is what the questions of the witness are going to be, and what areas the defense plans to go into.  Likely there was a motion practice directed at preventing this area from being delved into and the Judge allowed it.   Manzo was not "surpirsed" by this inquiry, the court had doubtlessly ruled that this testimony was going to be permitted over objections by the prosecutors on the very issue the reporter raised with Mr. Raynack after the court session.  How is this guy's intimate misconduct relevant, since it neither proves or disproves an element of the prosecution case against Mr. Veon. 

The cross examination of Manzo was directed at making him out ot be the liar that he is, he lies in his most intimate relationship as Mr. Raynack's cross examination showed, the jury can conclude that his testimony can not be relied upon for anything.

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