Minnesota Judges Strike Key Coleman Witness, After Failure To Share Evidence

February 25, 2009 11:57 am

The Minnesota election court just laid down some serious punishment against Norm Coleman’s legal team, granting Team Franken’s motion to strike the testimony of a key witness involved in Coleman’s claim that absentee ballots had been double-counted.

This came about because the witness, election worker Pamela Howell, had typed up some personal notes weeks ago and gave them to the Coleman campaign, who then failed to properly share them with Franken. Without Howell’s testimony, the Coleman camp’s efforts to show double-counting have been unambiguously damaged.

“The court will issue a written order with further explanation,” said Judge Elizabeth Hayden. That further explanation should be interesting to read.Just a little while before they made their decision, the judges conducted a short Q & A with Coleman lawyer Tony Trimble, asking him why he’d failed to share evidence and why this shouldn’t disqualify the witness.

Trimble admitted that they’d had the document at the time evidence was being exchanged between the two teams, but he claimed the campaign hadn’t thought about it — that it was insignificant. “Fine, I believe Mr. Lillehaug [Franken lawyer] is correct,” said Trimble. “It was not produced, but it was not intentionally squirreled away. It was overlooked.”

Trimble instead proposed that the Franken camp be given some time, perhaps even a day, to review it before proceeding with Howell’s cross-examination: “I would be surprised if it took any more time than 10 minutes to examine this statement, to see that there’s nothing new.”

The judges weren’t convinced.

One other thing: Before they went into the chambers, the judges had to ask for a copy of the document, so that they too could review it for the first time. Ouch.

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