Monday, February 13, 2006

Lay-Skilling Trial - A New Week

Houston Chronicle reports here how Attorney Petrocelli, counsel for Jeffrey Skilling, has been using the term "contract" to replace the term  "plea agreement." Much of the key forthcoming testimony in the trial will be from government witnesses who have entered into deals in order to avoid long jail terms.  The deals obviously require their cooperation, and this cooperation comes in the form of their testimony in this and other cases. The Chronicle quotes co-blogger Peter Henning who states, "[w]hen people hear 'contract' they think quid pro quo."

"Contract" seems like a sophisticated term to be using in this jury trial. Attorney Petrocelli couldn't possibly be considering turning this term around by using a possible second meaning - that being - a contract is when you "take a hit out on someone." Somehow I can't imagine a jury would find this twist on the term amusing.

The Houston Chronicle discusses the way Dick DeGuerin, a Houston criminal defense lawyer, approaches this subject - that being, a plea is a "legal form of bribery."   In actually, this description is very accurate, as the issue was presented to an en banc Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in the famed case of Singleton v. United States, where they reversed a panel decision finding that prosecutors are not subject to the bribery statute when they "giv[ ], offer[ ], or promise[ ] anything of value for or because of the testimony."  The court held that the word “whoever” does not include an Assistant United States offering a witness leniency in exchange for the witness providing truthful testimony at the trial of another individual.  The US Supreme Court denied certiorari in the Singleton case.


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