Holyland witness' sickness upsets trial

Holyland trial against Olmert "turned upside down" as prosecutor announces new list of witnesses.

EHUD OLMERT 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The Holyland trial against former prime minister Ehud Olmert and 16 other defendants was turned upside down on Tuesday as the state prosecutor announced a new list of witnesses that it planned to call in light of the continued hospitalization of the state’s main witness.
“S.D.,” as the state’s main witness is known under a gag order, was hospitalized last Wednesday. The expectation is that he will be released in the near future, following completing various tests. Meanwhile, it is still unclear what caused S.D.’s medical problems.
On Monday, Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen had ordered that the case should move forward in a new format in light of S.D.’s worsening health.
Presuming S.D. would be capable of continuing his testimony starting Thursday, the court ordered that he would only have to testify before noon. From noon until 8 p.m., the prosecution would have to move forward with its case, calling its other witnesses.
The trial, halted since S.D.’s hospitalization, involves one of the largest bribery and fraud schemes in the country’s history.
It involves public officials moving a large deluxe residential housing project forward in Jerusalem while overlooking various building and zoning regulations.
Prior to S.D.’s current health crisis, the trial had focused entirely on his testimony, given four days a week from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This earlier schedule was a compromise between the state and the court. The state had originally requested testimony in the mornings only, in light of the obvious medical problems of S.D., who walks with a cane.
The court had initially wanted S.D. to testify all day long, even into the evening. In some early hearings, S.D. pleaded with the court to stop his testimony in the early afternoon, usually to be rebuffed and chided by the judge to try to push forward a bit longer.
Eventually, after around three exchanges between the judge and S.D., the judge would relent and permit S.D. to finish the day early.
Judge Rozen has repeatedly emphasized the importance of pushing the envelope in holding trial proceedings almost every day for much longer hours than is usual in the courts.
Typically, hearings in the court end by or before 5 p.m. Rozen has said that the case is so huge, with 16 defendants and massive amounts of witnesses and documents, that there is no choice but to move forward as fast as possible, or it will never end.
S.D.’s hospitalization is a major challenge to Rozen’s goal of and some might see his order to skip to the more ancillary witnesses as an unorthodox move.
Usually, ancillary witnesses would not be called until all of the 16 defendants’ defense attorneys had an opportunity to cross-examine S.D.
Certainly from the defendants’ side of the aisle, it would not be unexpected if objections are voiced, since S.D. testified against them for months.