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June 19, 2008 10:15 PM

Day 4 follies and fumbles

Posted by Percy Allen

Thank goodness for Alexie Sherman, who added a little humor to a trial in dire need of comic relief. The prize-winning author, poet and comedian was worth the price of admission. Not sure if helped the Sonics case, but who cares. He was thoughtful, passionate and thoroughly engaging.

In all honesty, I didn't know much about Alexie before today other than his column in The Stranger and his book "Smoke Signals," but he's certainly a colorful character with some interesting ideas.

Still, I thought it was strange the Seattle attorneys chose to put Alexie on the stand after economist Lon Hatamiya because the two witnesses told two different stories. Hatamiya said the Sonics impact on Seattle can be quantified using a specific set of qualifiers. He said the Sonics annually generates $187 million for the Seattle metro area.

Later in the morning, Alexie said you can't put a price on the fans feelings for their favorite NBA team.

Seattle attorney Paul Lawrence said the handful of economists and their mixed projections furthers the city's case that the Sonics are a unique tenant whose value isn't easily measured.

Now some comments on the lawyering from a layman's perspective. I've been told I have no clue about what to look for and that's probably right. But if anyone had seen Seattle attorney Jeffrey Johnson's cross exam Deborah Jay, they would come to the conclusion that Johnson struggled big time. He's just not smooth. Not like Lawrence, Brad Keller or Paul Taylor.

Again Johnson's choppy style won't decide the case, but it's sure fun to watch. Keller seems to take joy interrupting Johnson's flow with objections and almost every time Judge Marsha Pechman sustains.

She often helps Johnson with his objections and one time he asked for an objection during his cross examination. Very funny.

Also, I'm told by someone who was inside the 14th floor courtroom that it was Johnson who initiated a verbal spat with Keller and not the other way around as I reported on the trial blog. Most of the media watches the trial on closed-circuit TV on the 18th floor and it appeared as if Keller was the instigator because he walked towards the plaintiff's table and leaned over to talk with Lawrence.

I asked Lawrence about the exchange later in the day, but he declined to offer any details.

Still, it appears as if I was wrong and I apologize to Keller and everyone here.

Back to the wrap-up: Lawrence scored points against the Sonics' economist Brad Humphreys when he pointed out Humphreys findings were on the Seattle metro area and not specifically the city of Seattle.

Taylor was great early in the week when he eviscerated economist Andrew Zimbalist, but he was unable to discredit Hatamiya or refute his claims about the Sonics value. And it was smart of Keller not to try and beat up on Alexie and get the superfan off the stand as quickly as possible.

A pair of attorneys (Seattle's Michelle Jensen and Sonics' James Webb) made their debuts today, but didn't distinguish themselves.

My scorecard is tied because the city finally had a far superior day than the Sonics.

Tomorrow promises to be exciting because former Sonics President Wally Walker, Seattle developer Matt Griffin and City Councilmember Nick Licata are scheduled to testify in court.

The Sonics will rest their case tomorrow and Pechman sounds as if she's going to give the attorneys a homework assignment to occupy their time during the five-day break. After Friday, the trial will resume June 26. Pechman said she found case law and will ask both sides some questions.

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