Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Stanford's trial not won with one witness – experts

Published:Monday | February 13, 2012 | 2:30 PM

From testimony about bribes, blood oaths, faked profits and secret Swiss bank accounts, the ongoing fraud trial of jailed and former jet setting Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford has had its share of drama.

And many of the details about the alleged fraud that prosecutors say bilked investors out of more than US$7 billion in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history were provided by Stanford’s former top money man and the prosecution's star witness, James M. Davis, over more than four days of testimony.

But Stanford’s attorneys did their best to tear down Davis and portray him to jurors as a liar, adulterer, tax cheat and the true mastermind of the scheme who has pleaded guilty to three fraud and conspiracy charges as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, and will say anything to avoid a lengthy prison term.

While legal experts say Davis' credibility will be important with jurors during their deliberations, a fraud case as complex as this one isn't won or lost with one witness and Stanford’s fate remains unclear.

"A trial is very much like a mosaic and the pieces in their entirety show the picture," said Philip Hilder, a Houston criminal defence attorney and former federal prosecutor who's followed the trial.

"Mr. Davis' testimony, while key, is not the whole case."

Davis, the former chief financial officer of Stanford’s companies, portrayed his ex-boss as the leader of the fraud who burned through billions of CD deposits to pay for failing businesses and fund his lavish lifestyle, including a fleet of private jets and yachts.

"The approach prosecutors (are taking) is the standard strategy in building a (fraud) case through documents and bank records and then corroborating that with the testimony of a well-placed insider," said Robert Mintz, a New Jersey-based defence attorney and former federal prosecutor.

Prosecutors could wrap up their case by early next week.

Once the defence begins its case, the question will be whether Stanford will testify, as his attorneys promised during their opening statements.

Anthony Sabino, a law professor at St. John's University in New York City, and Mintz, don't think that's a good idea.

"More often than not, a defendant hurts rather than helps their own case," Mintz said.