Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Jury Pool Issue Heats Up in the Scrushy-Siegelman Case

Well before their trial on corruption charges in the Middle District of Alabama, former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman challenged the method for putting together the jury pool by arguing that it did not include a sufficient number of African-Americans, violating their Sixth Amendment rights.  The issue remained undecided through the trial, and only now seems to be percolating to the surface.  According to a report on WSFA TV12 in Montgomery (here):

One question is --  do the issues that result in the under-representation of African-Americans in the jury pools rise to a "substantial" enough level to have denied businessman Richard Scrushy and former Governor Don Siegelman their rights under the Constitution?  If what many perceive as minor problems are not eventually corrected, will they have an impact on other cases brought in the Middle District of Alabama?

Tuesday in federal court, Judge Charles Coody moved an issue which has been on the back burner of the corruption case involving Scrushy and Siegelman, who were convicted last June, back to the front burner.  The judge held a conference call with counsel from all sides to flesh out some old motions related to a jury challenge over the under-representation of African-Americans on juries in the Middle District of Alabama.

There are already jury misconduct issues before the district court a second time, related to alleged improper e-mail communications between two jurors, and a new trial motion on this ground was denied once already.  The jury pool issue will likely be yet another basis for the appeal of the convictions, assuming their motion is denied.  The case was hard-fought from the outset, and that shows no sign of abating.  The parties have until February 14 to file briefs on the issue. (ph)

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