Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Weeping Juror Rankles|Lawyer in Terror Trial

MANHATTAN (CN) - In a trial with $1 billion at stake, each tear a juror sheds for the victims of decade-old terror attacks in Israel could exact a heavy price for the Palestinian Authority.

Family members suing Palestinian governing bodies took to the stand last week to share often heartbreaking memories of relatives killed in a spate of attacks against Israeli civilians in the early 2000s, known as the Second Intifada.

During one witness's testimony, a juror "broke into sobs and uttered an expletive," the Palestinian Authority's lawyer Mark Rochon said.

"I don't want to embarrass jurors, and I am very cognizant of the fact that an element of the damages can be powerful emotional testimony, but if someone has a personal experience ... that would affect their ability to be fair, that's something we do need to know about," he added.

Rochon, from the Washington-based firm Miller & Chevalier, suspected that unexpected testimony about "sexual assault issues" caused the juror to weep.

Declining to issue a jury instruction, U.S. District Judge George Daniels commented, "This isn't the first time that I have seen a juror cry or react strongly to the emotional testimony of a particular witness."

Indeed, there were more tears in court later that day from a father recounting how a bomb dashed his plans for reconciliation.

Days before the bomb went off at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, Larry Carter had been in North Carolina where he finally mustered the nerve to meet a detective he was thinking of hiring to check in on a daughter he had not seen in 12 years.

For Carter, the perpetrators of the bombing of Hebrew University's Frank Sinatra cafeteria on July 31, 2002, not only killed his estranged child Diana.

"They also took away all of my hope," he said.

Diana left her family to move to Israel with her husband Ohad in 1990.

Conservative and genteel, Carter said that he disliked Ohad's "pontificating about politics," and Ohad disapproved of his affection for Ronald Reagan's foreign policy deputy Jeane Kirkpatrick.

As their relationship soured, Carter said that Diana left him the same message she gave her mother and sister.

"Do not call me," Carter recalled her saying. "I will call you when I am ready to talk to you again."

Twelve years later, Carter said that the call never came, and that Diana ignored his attempt at reconciliation. That's when Carter said he met with a private investigator to check on her safety, but that he and his ex-wife wanted to wait a "day or so" before deciding to retain him.

Then, a reporter left a message on his voicemail about his daughter "Dina," Carter said.

At first, Carter said he assumed there had been a mistake.

"We had no idea that Diane had converted to Judaism," he said.

He added that he was still in denial when a woman from the Jerusalem embassy called him at 2:30 am to confirm that his daughter indeed had been identified as one of the victims - by her fingerprints.

"Well, that didn't hit me until a couple days later," Carter said.

Now in his late 70s, Carter's already-ruddy face reddened, and his voice cracked as he recalled realizing the method of identification was used because his daughter had been "so badly mutilated" by the explosion.

An FBI agent later told Carter that Dina bore "the full brunt of the blast," he testified, comparing it to the Boston bombings.

Rochon objected to this comparison.

Sitting alert throughout the emotional testimony, Rochon sprang up from time to time to oppose what he called irrelevant or prejudicial testimony. He told a jury when trial started that his clients conceded that the attacks on Israeli civilians were "crazy, contemptible and wrong," but insisted that they were not their fault.

The Hebrew University bomb was detonated by operatives of Hamas, which is not a party in the case.

Lawyers for the families contend that Palestinian Authority payment records, employment files and intelligence documents show a tie to the bombing's "mastermind," Ahmed Barghouti.

But, despite the occasional sustained objection, the testimony remained deeply intimate and emotional.

Carter said that Diana's funeral occurred hours after he received that late-night call from the embassy, and he has not been able to bring himself to his daughter's grave to this day.

Every night, Carter said, he walks past a picture of his daughter that he placed at the foot of the stairs so that he can tell her, "I have made it another day."

He also read a poem he wrote to her - "Now You Know the Answers" - into the record.

Brother and sister Yitzhak and Esther Goldberg also recounted how they honored the memory of their father Stuart, who died in the Jan. 29, 2004, suicide bombing of a public bus in Jerusalem.

Esther gave her son her father's Hebrew name, Yechezkel, a fact that she said so disturbed her mother Shifra that, at first, she could only call the boy "baby."

"Her heart is just shattered, and it can never be put back together again," Esther said of her mother.

Yitzhak testified that he still searches through photos of the bombing on every anniversary of the attacks.

"I'm looking to find some more information, or more information than I know," he said.

Lawyers for the families submitted records from the Palestinian Authority's General Intelligence Service allegedly linking their employees Ahmed Salah and Ali Ja'ara to that attack, a spokeswoman said.

Ja'ara was the bomber, and Salah was convicted of aiding it, she added.

The Palestinian Authority's lawyer Rochon contends that the paperwork reflects only his client's massive "social welfare state." He estimated that he would kick off a four-day defense case this week.

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