Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Jury selection began in the corruption trial of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, and two former members of Siegelman's cabinet. The judge expects to complete jury selection in two days, and then begin the trial on May 1. Based on the government's witness list, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller said that the trial will last from four to six weeks, which puts it perilously close to the June 6 Democratic gubernatorial primary in which Siegelman is a candidate. Among the other candidates for the Democratic nomination is Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley, former wife of Lt. Governor Bill Baxley, who happens to be defense counsel to one of the other defendants. According to an AP story (here), potential witnesses include a number of current and former state legislators and three former Governors: Guy Hunt, Jim Folsom Jr. and Fob James. As if things were not political enough, the judge rejected the government's motion to prohibit Siegelman from arguing that the charges were brought based on political considerations (AP story here) because the request was untimely. And this is just one of the defendants.
Scrushy's motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the grand jury was selected in a racially biased manner still has not been decided (see earlier post here). That is a difficult claim to establish, so it is unlikely the judge would proceed with jury selection if there were any reasonable likelihood of the indictment being dismissed. Along with the political aspects of the case, Scrushy may try to raise issues of racial and economic bias. This trial could make Scrushy's earlier fraud prosecution in Birmingham look like an out-of-town tryout for the main attraction. (ph)