Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller rejected the new trial motion of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman after their convictions on corruption charges. The defendants sought the new trial on grounds of juror misconduct, specifically related to outside evidence in the jury room and improper deliberations. The opinion (available below) found that two jurors did bring in evidence not admitted at trial during the deliberations, but concluded that the defendants were not prejudiced. The jury foreman looked up on the internet the instructions for people serving in that role, and the foreman and another juror downloaded a copy of the indictment from a District Court website that had language the court had stricken from the official indictment supplied to the jury. The court noted that the first type of information was unrelated to the deliberations, and the jury instructions to consider the indictment only as an accusation meant that the unauthorized version likely had no effect on the jury's decision. The court also rejected a set of e-mails supplied by the defendants allegedly showing that some jurors discussed the case outside the jury room because they could not be authenticated.
Although the jury misconduct issue is out of the way, the district court still has not addressed a defense challenge to the racial composition of the jury pool, that African-Americans were improperly excluded and therefore a new trial with a jury drawn from a properly chosen venire is required. Until Judge Fuller rules on that issue, a sentencing date will not be set. Look for the case to drag on even longer before it finally heads to the Eleventh Circuit, where the jury issues, among others, will be fought out again. (ph)