Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Highlights of the Ryan Opinion

Some highlights from the majority:

The majority opinion, after finding no basis for reversal in the procedural issues raised on appeal, moved to some of the substantive matters.

  • The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the defendant's argument that the State of Illinois should not be allowed to be an "enterprise" for purposes of RICO. The court references the en banc Sixth Circuit decision in U.S. v. Thompson where the court allowed the "Office of the Governor" to be an enterprise for purposes of RICO.
  • The majority also reflected on whether the "honest services" doctrine used for mail fraud was vague. Stating:

"We are unpersuaded that the references to state law in the jury instructions were phrased in a way that makes the use of the mail fraud statute here unconstitutional. Many of the state law provisions in the instructions explained what kinds of financial transactions are not prohibited for state officials. This explanation was more likely to undermine than to assist the prosecution in showing the defendants’ intent to deprive Illinois citizens of Ryan’s honest services."

And from the dissent:

"My colleagues in the majority concede that the trial of this case may not have been "picture-perfect," – a whopping understatement by any measure. The majority then observes that the lack of a picture-perfect trial "is, in itself, nothing unusual." I agree that from my experience this is a realistic proposition. There is rarely perfection in any human endeavor – and in particular jury trials. What we expect from our judicial system is not an error free trial, but a trial process that is properly handled to achieve a fair and just result. That fair and just result was not achieved in this case.

"The basis for my dissent lies not in the exceedingly drawn out evidentiary phase of this trial but in the dysfunctional jury deliberations."

(esp)

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