Cynthia McFadden hosts a program produced for American Lawyer magazine, featuring court room highlights of the 1991 Palm Beach County, Florida, media circus rape trial of William Kennedy Smith before Judge Mary E. Lupo. In addition to testimony from the accused William Kennedy Smith, and his uncle Senator Ted Kennedy, direct & cross examinations of alleged victim’s friend Anne Weatherly Mercer by attorney Roy Black provide stunning insight into the artful process of destroying a witnesses’ credibility.
The state’s case wasn’t helped by the alleged victim’s friend Mercer, who Black took apart on the stand for removing a valuable antique urn from the Kennedy compound, and engaged in pursuing paid interviews with tabloid TV shows like A Current Affair. In contrast to Black’s persuasive & powerful presence at the podium, prosecuting attorney Moira Lasch seems to bungle the case, allowing William Kennedy Smith ample room to bolster his own story to jurors via the gaping holes her daft & open ended hypothetical questions left. Other prosecution weaknesses included a failure to get testimony admitted from three other women saying that the young Kennedy family member had sexually assaulted them in prior incidents.
Black’s defense strategy apparently raised more than enough doubt, so much that the jury deliberated for only 72 minutes before delivering a verdict resulting in Smith’s acquittal. Midway this tape also includes legal analysis from Starlet Jones and Victoria Toensing about the court room rapport a prosecutor should have with a complainant who says she has been raped, and how Lasch obviously failed to connect the case emotionally with the jury. The dramatic testimonial peak moment for accuser Patricia Bowman, tearfully describing the alleged sexual assault, is ruined by seemingly abrupt cold & abject mechanical questioning of Bowman by Lasch about her height & weight. An experienced state attorney, Ms. Lasch was criticized soundly in the press & post trial analysis for an ineffective strategy, poor timing, apparent fumbling and lack or preparation, as well as failure to control the witnesses and drive soundly for a conviction in the matter. In retrospect, compared to the unflappable and relaxed Roy Black, it appears almost as if the oddly detached and shrill Lasch was deliberately throwing the case.
Lasch makes the ill advised decision to call Senator Edward Kennedy to the stand, whose absolute grandiosity and celebrated reputation she is obviously no match for. Direct examination of defendant William Kennedy Smith by Roy Black with cross examination of William Kennedy Smith by prosecutor Moira Lasch follows.