Published October 27, 2010
There are so few apparent highlights to Chuck Turner’s day in court Tuesday that it may be fair to start with them.
Under gentle questioning from attorneys who never wanted him to take the stand to testify in his own defense, Turner got to describe himself as:
- A selfless public official. (He alone among Boston city councilors runs a district office, which he pays for with his own salary and campaign funds.)
- A lifelong activist, devoted to the liberation of African-Americans.
- A Harvard graduate whose interests are with the poor and disadvantaged.
And that was pretty much it for the highlights. Turner reached the high-water mark quickly. As soon as the prosecutor stood up, the tide dropped.
The prosecution turned to that video tape recorded by FBI informant Ron Wilburn — the video that shows something changing hands. Wilburn had testified it was cash, although he never counted it. The FBI said it was $1,000.
[pullquote align=”right”]My memory of yesterday will be of Barry Wilson, a bear of a defense attorney, slumping into his chair.[/pullquote]
To his credit, Turner didn’t say it was a candy bar. As it was, Turner testified he couldn’t even remember Wilburn, let alone any money.
“Can’t remember, don’t recall” became the courtroom mantra. The prosecutor was relentless. He feigned amazement that Turner couldn’t recall and didn’t remember.
You don’t have to be 71, Turner’s age, to understand the affliction of failing memory. But losing your memory in front of a jury, especially when you’re the defendant, is seldom a positive development. Especially when you’re on tape and someone’s putting something in your hand. Especially when it looks like money.
My memory of yesterday will be of Barry Wilson, a bear of a defense attorney, slumping into his chair. The prosecutor lashed into Turner. Nothing good could come of Turner’s taking the stand, Wilson had warned. He was watching his fears unfold.
Going into court, Turner had professed the belief he could defend his reputation and honesty by taking the stand. Defense attorneys routinely counsel their clients that taking the stand seldom accomplishes that. Turner said he was only telling the truth. He did get to testify he meets so many people that he doesn’t remember a lot of them, including Wilburn. The jury, obviously, will decide whether Turner is telling the truth.
Turner is back on the stand today, and it would appear that his defense attorneys have the job of pushing the boulder out of the hole and up the hill.