"I call it the case of the unwashed window," thundered famed defense attorney Edward Bennett Williams to the jury yesterday.
"If you look out at life through unwashed windows," he continued," "everything looks dirty. That's the view of the prosecution. But if you look at life through clean windows, you can tell what's dirty and what's clean."
Then he asked the jury to look at the case of his client, millionaire developer Dominic F. Antonleli Jr., "through washed windows so you can make the proper distinction between good and evil."
When his turn came, prosecutor Henry F. Schuelke III cracked his whip. "You've got to be a cynic like me to look at the world through dirty windows." he said sarcastically.
"I want to know who put the dirt on the window," Schuelke continued, turning from the jury to cast a meaningful gaze in the direction of defendants Antonelli and Joseph P. Yeldell.
Yesterday was all lawyers at the bribery-conspiracy trial of Yeldell and Antonelli. It was the day when the attorneys had their final say, interpreting more than three weeks of testimony in the way that suited their cases best.
When Judge Gerhard A. Gesell called the court to order, he might as well have said, "Ring up the curtain." And when it was all over, no one in the crowded courtroom was sure whether the modishly dressed, hip-talking young prosecutors or the more experienced, savvy defense attorneys had put on the better show.
A lawyer in the crowd - one of many who had stood in line to hear the closing arguments - thought Schuelke's 80-minute rebuttal was too flip, too caustic for the all-black, mostly female and largely middleclass jury.
While Williams drew praise for his commanding presence before the jury, two lawyers who asked that their names not be used complained that his case was all theatric and with few facts.
Richard L. Beizer, the 36-year-old former Harvard football player, was onstage first for the prosecution. Reminding the jury how Yeldell had changed his story on the witness stand, he turned away and said in a stage whisper: "Come on. Come on."
"Ladies and gentlemen," protested Beizer, bringing body language into his argument. "I'm holding my hands up over my head. It's as if there wasn't a body connecting them. That's what they (the defense attorneys) would like to have you believe" about the business and personal relations of Antonelli and Yeldell.
After the mod Beizer, with his Afro haircut and big bowtie, Williams' act was old shoe. Using phrases refined over hundreds of closing arguments down the years, Williams told the jury he wanted to be "of maximum help to you" and thanked them for their "unwavering attention" during testimony that at times had been tedious and complex.
By the time Williams finished half his presentation - just around the lunch break - he had command of the courtroom. It was he, in fact, who called the noon recess, not Judge Gesell.
Yeldell's lawyer, John A. Shorter Jr., a veteran of hundreds of criminal trials in Washington, was low key - a perfect foil for Williams. He spoke to the jury in conversational tones, rarely moving from the lectern punctuating his arguments with the phrase, "ladies and gentlemen of the jury" as frequently as four times a minute.
"The government, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is throwing sand in your eyes," he said to knock down the prosecution charge that Yeldell and Antonelli conspired to award Antonelli a lucrative D.C. government lease.
Then came Schuelke. "Truth he kept repeating, "that's what this case is about." He picked up Williams reference to the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, recast it in terms of the prosecution case and then related how witness who had sworn on the Bible to tell the truth gave testimony that differed from Yeldell's and Antonelli's.