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Ken Lay lawyers seek speedy erasure of criminal record

[JURIST] Lawyers representing the estate of former Enron [JURIST news archive] chairman Ken Lay [Houston Chronicle profile; JURIST news archive] have filed papers asking US District Judge Sim Lake [Houston Chronicle profile] to rule on a nearly two-month-old request to clear Lay’s record [JURIST news archive], dismissing his 2004 indictment [final redacted indictment, PDF] and subsequent conviction [JURIST report]. In 2004, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in US v. Estate of Andrew Clyde Parsons [opinion text, WPD] that a defendant’s death during a pending appeal erases an entire case, as the defendant cannot challenge his conviction. Lay died [JURIST report] of heart disease on July 5 this year.

Prosecutors asked Lake to defer a ruling [JURIST report] on the erasure request until October 23, 2006, the date Lay was to be sentenced, so as to give time for Congress to pass new legislation that would preserve convictions despite a defendant’s death. In this week’s filing, Lay lawyer Samuel Buffone [profile] is seeking to expedite Lake’s ruling on the grounds that Congress adjourned last Saturday with neither introduction nor passage of any such bills. If Lake approves the request, the government would be unable to seize ill-gotten cash and property through the criminal case, and would instead be forced to build a forfeiture case in civil courts. The Houston Chronicle has more.

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