The news from Baghdad is that Saddam Hussein has fired almost all of his defense lawyers, keeping only one.
His eldest daughter, Raghad, representing the family, chose Khalil Dulaimi to take over from the long list of international lawyers who were in the act. There is an old Iraqi saying: "Too many lawyers muck up a trial."
It is no surprise that an alleged mass murderer should change lawyers. The Hussein family wants the best defense that money can buy. And it is no secret it still has enough in Swiss banks to go for broke.
I asked a lawyer in this country how he would defend Hussein.
He said: "Well, I have never defended someone accused of mass-killing Shiite Muslims before. But if I were asked to take the case, I would first announce that Saddam is innocent of all charges and the Iraqi government is using him as a scapegoat."
"You wouldn't cop an insanity plea?"
"No. It would be hard to find a psychiatrist who'd testify that Saddam is really insane."
"But," I said, "he still says he's the legal president of Iraq."
"Every deposed head of state says that."
"So if it's not insanity, could the killings be called crimes of passion?"
"It has to be considered. It depends who is on the tribunal. Will they consider murdering thousands of people a passionate act? A better plea is Allah made him do it."
"That would never be accepted in an American court." I said.
"That's why I'd be glad it's happening in an Iraqi court. I would move that evidence of torture and poison gas not be put in the record because it has nothing to do with the case and will only prejudice the jury."
I said, "It'd be worth a try."
"Then I would offer the prosecutor a deal. My client would become a government witness and rat on members of the Baathist Party. In exchange for this, he would get a light sentence and would be put in a witness protection program in Fallujah."
"What will he give them?"
"The places where he is still hiding the weapons of mass destruction that President Bush keeps talking about."
"That would be a big boost to explaining why we got into the war. You might even make a deal for community service. Baghdad can use all the community services it can get," I said.
The attorney said: "If I were his lawyer, I would make Saddam look very sympathetic. I would trim his beard and make him wear a starched white shirt and a blazer that says Mosul Yacht Club. The world will be covering the trial so, except for his alleged murders, he would look like everyone's grandfather."
"Would you insist on TV cameras in the courtroom?"
"Yes. I would insist they be there to make sure Saddam gets a fair trial. Also, I would fight any gag order, because I would hope to write a book about the trial for millions of dollars."
"Of course you wouldn't do this pro bono," I said.
"No way. I would charge $800 an hour, and he would pay it -- God willing."
(c) 2005, Tribune Media Services