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The Defense Rests, and Not a Minute Too Soon

I. Lewis
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, foreground, is shown with lawyer Ted Wells in February 2006. Yesterday, as the defense rested in Libby's perjury trial, Wells reassured the jurors about his client: "He's not stupid, man." In a reference to his opening argument, Wells said, "Maybe I was drunk or something," and also told jurors, "It may turn out that Mr. Libby is totally confused." (By Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)

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By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

For a brief moment yesterday, Scooter Libby was not a former White House aide on trial for perjury. He was an orphan in need of a loving home.

"He's been under my protection for the last month; now I'm entrusting him to you," defense lawyer Ted Wells told the puzzled jurors.

His voice breaking, the $700-an-hour lawyer pleaded: "Give him back! Give him back to me!"

Wells sobbed loudly and went back to his chair, where he sat staring at the floor and emitting the occasional sniffle.

Exactly what Wells was trying to achieve with this outburst -- if he intended it at all -- was a mystery. And that made it an appropriate coda for the defense's closing argument in the CIA leak case yesterday. Wells, who has successfully defended the likes of Robert Torricelli and Mike Espy, may yet win an acquittal from the jury, which will start deliberations today. But it won't be because of the cohesion of his closing arguments. Libby was alternately portrayed as a man who told the truth, a man who inadvertently misspoke, and the victim of conspiracies involving everybody from President Bush to Tim Russert.

Wells's shots rang out from every direction.

On his client: "He's not stupid, man."

On the prosecutors: "Think about the madness!"

On his opening argument: "Maybe I was drunk or something."

On prosecution witness Judith Miller: "Ms. Miller's gone. Boom!"

On Bush's chief strategist: "Karl Rove lied!"

On Bush's press secretary: "Gimme a break.' "


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