Reporter's Notebook: Drama, comedy at Holyland trial
S.D.’s march to the witness chair took him within inches of Ehud Olmert, Uri Lupolianski and the rest of the defendants.
Holyland Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
The atmosphere on the first day of the Holyland trial ranged from the dramatic
to the bizarrely comical. Half of the time defense attorneys and defendants were
calling out strenuous objections to the state’s case and the testimony of its
key witness, S.D. But half the time, S.D., the defendants and the judge tried to
lower the tension level with some comedy, or at least unscripted
S.D. entered the court room using a cane and hobbled to the
witness chair. Because the courtroom was small and due to its layout, S.D.’s
march to the witness chair took him within inches of Ehud Olmert, Uri
Lupolianski and the rest of the defendants.
S.D. ranged from incredibly
lucid with a tremendous grasp of the details and chronology of the Holyland
Affair to looking confused and bewildered when he lost his train of thought or
stated a fact that was plainly wrong.
He sounded exhausted and weak and
had to be repeatedly asked to use a microphone, but when he had strength he
displayed a deep and resonating baritone.
Although he sat through most of
his testimony, the witness did stand several times to point out physical aspects
of the Holyland project on large murals that the prosecution displayed. S.D.’s finger shook for most of the
time that he pointed at the murals.
In one instance, S.D. said an event
had occurred in 1994, but he could not remember when. The state prosecutor
interjected “the end of 1994” to help him, and the defense attorneys jumped to
their feet, objecting to the state’s assisting a witness with
Olmert entered the court last of all of the defendants, with
an entourage, and generally smiled and greeted reporters and observers as if he
were still the prime minister working the room. He also seemed particularly calm
for a climactic day in the Holyland case, possibly because he has spent so much
time in court on other corruption affairs in the past few years.
Zaken, in an unscripted moment, kept trying to fix the courtroom door mezuza,
which continued to fall sideways no matter how hard she
Lupolianski tried to convince one of the court security guards to
sit down next to him so they could talk. After being refused, he eventually fell
asleep several times, apparently not all that concerned about his fate at this
The judge was unusually active, frequently taking over the
state prosecutor’s role by asking S.D. questions.
The judge seemed to
lose patience with many of the parties in the room. At one point when the state
prosecutor tried to order defense attorneys to “just be quiet,” the judge
rebuked her and reminded her that he was in charge.
When the defense
attorneys exhausted the judge’s patience demanding to see originals of every
document, he lifted up his original, signaling to them that they were welcome to
come to his chambers after the hearing and photocopy the document themselves.
But he said the defense attorneys could do this on their own time and dime, as
the state could not be expected to arrange access for dozens of attorneys to
originals of every document in the case.
The judge also said that if the
defense did not trust the state’s photocopying abilities, he could have his
staff recopy the same document and send the defense new photocopies.