July 7, 2011
7th Circuit Affirms Denial of George Ryan's 2255 Motion
Former Governor George Ryan brought a collateral attack, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. s 2255, following the Supreme Court's decision in Skilling. He argued among other things "that the jury instructions were defective because they permitted the jury to convict him on an honest-services theory without finding a bribe or a kickback." The district court, however, found his errors harmless. Interestingly the prosecutor conceded that despite Ryan not filing his 2255 motion within the one year time period, "2255(f)(3) restarts the time when a 'right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review,'" and Ryan met this standard. Did the government want this case heard because they want to find the contours of what is encompassed within Skilling?
The Seventh Circuit issued its opinion in which it states that "[c]ollateral review is not just a rerun of the direct appeal, in which a defendant can use hindsight to craft better arguments." They go on to stress the limits of collateral review. The court states that Ryan's "current argument that the jury instructions were defective because they did not track Skilling is novel." But they also state that "[i]f Ryan's lawyers had done what Skilling's lawyers did, the controlling decision today might be Ryan rather than Skilling. The bottom line is that the court holds that "[o]n the record at trial, a jury could have convicted Ryan of mail fraud using the legal standard set by Skilling."
Commentary: 1) Even white collar cases are seeing the problems created by limits to collateral attacks. 2) Skilling is certainly not like McNally was to mail fraud cases when the Court issued it in 1987.
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