Supreme Court hears Enron ex-CEO appeal

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF; merit briefs] Monday in three cases, including the case of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling [JURIST news archives]. In Skilling v. United States [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on whether the federal honest services fraud statute [18 USC § 1346 text] is unconstitutionally vague. The court also heard arguments on whether and to what extent the government must rebut the presumption of jury prejudice, which arose because of pretrial publicity and community impact of the alleged conduct. Skilling was convicted [JURIST report] in 2006 of 19 counts of conspiracy, insider trading, and securities fraud and is currently serving a 24-year sentence. In February 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied [JURIST report] a petition for an en banc rehearing after a three-judge panel upheld [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] Skilling's previous convictions and ordered him to be resentenced due to error in the lower court. Counsel for Skilling opened his arguments by stating:

the court of appeals was correct in unanimously concluding that this was one of the very rare cases in which, because of the degree of passion and prejudice in the community, the process of voir dire cannot be relied upon to adequately ferret out and identify unduly biased jurors.
Counsel for the US argued that the trial judge had an adequately rigorous process for selecting jurors.

In Berghuis v. Thompkins [oral arguments transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on whether a police officer can non-coercively persuade a defendant to cooperate after the defendant has heard his Miranda rights but has not invoked or waived them. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the defendant's nearly three-hour silence in response to questioning constituted a desire not to waive his rights [opinion, PDF] and that the state failed to satisfy its heavy burden of showing such a waiver took place. Counsel for the petitioner argued:
The Michigan courts here did not unreasonably conclude that Mr. Thompkins had impliedly waived his rights where he expressly acknowledged his rights under - from his form after having read out loud from that form, he participated in a limited fashion during the interview.
Counsel for the respondent argued that, "the right to remain silent, we don't require that it be asserted. It is a presumption. And that presumption remains."

In Holland v. Florida [oral arguments transcript, PDF], the court heard arguments on whether "gross negligence" by a state-appointed defense attorney in a death penalty case provides a basis for extending the time to file a federal habeas challenge, in a case where the habeas plea was filed late despite repeated instructions from the client. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] against extending time to file the challenge. Counsel for the petitioner Albert Holland argued that a line should be drawn between mere negligence and gross negligence. Counsel for the petition argued that negligence of any degree should not result in a tolling of the statute.


 

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