Richard Chichakli's court-appointed stand-by counsel has written to the presiding judge in the case, asking, on the defendant's behalf, for access to the government's witness list, and all 18 USC §3500 material* two weeks prior to the upcoming trial. The letter states that the reason for this unusual request is that Chichakli is unfamiliar with the Federal Rules of Evidence, and needs the additional time to review the documents, in preparing his defense, which includes cross-examining the witnesses.
3500 material includes witness statements and prior testimony. The statute provides that, to eliminate the possible intimidation of witnesses, it is not made available to counsel, or defendants, until after the witness has completed testifying in the case. What Chichakli is seeking is the ability to have an advance look at what the witnesses said on the record when interviewed, or given testimony under oath.
If granted, Chichakli could be better prepared to make speaking objections to their testimony on direct, or even use their prior inconsistent statement to attempt to impeach the witnesses early on. Do I accept the premise, that Chichakli's unfamiliarity with evidentiary rules, as well as procedure, requires preparation in advance, leveling the playing field, so to speak ? It is a good point, as he has chosen to be Pro Se, representing himself, against seasoned Federal prosecutors.
Of course, if his stand-by counsel, or another attorney, was to review these witness statements, and then actively assist him with his trial preparation, it might give him a distinct advantage at trial, but we do not know that this is the case. Will the Court grant this request ? Some Federal prosecutors have been known to release transcripts early on, as a professional courtesy to counsel, but the obviously high-profile nature of this case, and its connection to Viktor Bout, named as a defendant but not tried at this time, cannot be ignored. For that reason alone, Chichakli may not get his wish.
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