The Possum Strategy: Playing Dumb

The flurry of activity around the trial of former Credit Suisse First Boston banker Frank Quattrone will probably die down for this week. The lawyers made their opening statements Friday and today. Now, they’ve got to have all the experts – investigators and auditors and the like – testify about what they did and when they did it. That took about three days last time around and Judge Owen doesn’t make jurors work long days or on Friday.

In the meantime, The New York Times’ Mr. Sorkin and the Wall Street Journal’s tag team, Kara Scannell and Randy Smith are dissecting defense attorney John Keker’s new, softer approach to defending Quattrone.
This is a pretty shrewd move on Keker’s part. The former Marine is standing down in favor of Jan Little, one of his female partners who, it seems, has less of a courtroom presence. In their interviews with the jury consultants – and they were interviewed extensively, count on it — the men and women from the first trial must have made something of Keker’s courtroom style and the phalanx of tough lawyers he had with him.
So Quattrone and his lawyers are dumbing down, playing up Quattrone’s lack of sophistication and daring – qualities he possesses in no small measure – to seem like a Normal Joe (i.e. not a Martha Stewart, snapping at admins or a Tyco exec with a $6,000 shower curtain). The juror who we spoke to after the last trial seems very willing to see Quattrone as a nice guy who didn’t really get what was going on in New York.
This gets right at what was one of the little-noted weaknesses of the first case the prosecutors presented. It’s a subtle thing. But when all the clerks and admins (who did a lot of the document searching and requesting) even when CSFB lawyer David Brodsky called to talk to Quattrone about this or that query or investigation, they were talking up to power. Quattrone, by virtue of the hundreds of millions of dollars he made each year for CSFB from 1999 to 2001, was one of the most influential people in the bank. And he had (and still has, outside the courtroom) a reputation for having a quick temper: cross him and he had the juice to get you fired even if you were a big shot New York lawyer. So the conversations weren’t really fair. Quattrone, by virtue of his money-making held the advantage in almost all of these conversations, something prosecutors didn’t really bring out very well. Now, of course, Quattrone’s giving that advantage away. But it’s a very good, very shrewd tactical sacrifice.
As to Quattrone taking the stand? If he wants to walk, he’s going to have to, I think. But again, the lawyers are damping down expectations. The stakes for a Quattrone smack down with Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Peiken are much higher now.
UPDATE: USA Today says Frank’s talking this time, too.
UPDATE: Word is that Keker et al are, once again, upset by their press coverage. Ya know, when you got it good, you shouldn’t complain. Here’s a profile of New York Post columnist Andy Peyser who had quite the time at the Martha Stewart trial. Read it. Count your blessings. Then think about this: Andy’s coming out here for the Scott Peterson murder trial. Redwood City may never be the same.