Supreme Court's Opinion on Skilling v. U.S. Now Online At BrokeAndBroker.com
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DECISION IN SKILLING V. U.S.
In its Opinion dated June 24, 2010, the United States
Supreme Court ruled on the appeal of Jeffrey Skilling. The Court stated
that in 2001, Enron Corporation, then the seventh highest
revenue-grossing company in America, crashed into bankruptcy.
Thereafter, Skilling and two other top Enron executives were indicted
for engaging in a scheme to deceive investors about Enron’s true
financial performance by manipulating its publicly reported financial
results and making false and misleading statements.
Skilling, Count 1 of the indictment charged him with, inter alia,
conspiracy to commit “honest-services” wire fraud, 18 U. S. C. §§371,
1343, 1346, by depriving Enron and its shareholders of the intangible
right of his honest services. Skilling was also charged with over 25
substantive counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, making false
representations to Enron’s auditors, and insider trading.
Supreme Court considered two questions arising from the prosecution of
did pretrial publicity and
community prejudice prevent Skilling from obtaining a fair trial?
did the jury improperly convict Skilling of conspiracy to commit “honest-services” wire fraud, 18
U. S. C.§§371, 1343, 1346.
As to the first basis for appeal, the Fifth Circuit had
previously determined that the volume and negative tone of media
coverage generated by Enron’s collapse created a presumption of juror
prejudice. However, that was a rebuttable presumption and the Circuit
concluded that lower District Court had empaneled an impartial jury.
to the second basis for appeal, the Fifth Circuit was satisfied that
the jury had properly convicted Skilling of the alleged honest-services
Answering "no" to both questions, the Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeals affirmed Skilling’s convictions.
Court concurred with the Fifth Circuit, and found that Skilling’s
fair-trial argument failed. The Supreme Court found that Skilling failed
to establish that a presumption of juror prejudice arose or that actual
bias infected the jury that tried him. Although the Supreme Court has
overturned a conviction obtained in a trial atmosphere that was utterly
corrupted by press coverage, the Court would not broaden its prior
rulings to stand for the proposition that juror exposure to news
accounts of a given crime alone presumptively deprives a defendant of
due process. The Court admonished that
does not necessarily produce prejudice, and juror impartiality, we have reiterated,
does not require ignorance.
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