AP photo by Rob Carr|
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman during a news conference Wednesday about a federal judge’s refusal to grant a new trial to him and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.
Judge denies new trial for Siegelman, Scrushy
By BOB JOHNSON
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — For two months, the bribery trial of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy unfolded in a federal courtroom.
Their appeal, however, will be aiming at cyberspace.
A judge ruled Wednesday that juror activities on computers did not warrant a new trial for Siegelman and Scrushy, who were convicted in June, propting defense lawyers to say appeals courts may be forced to address jurors surfing the Internet and chatting via by e-mail.
New rules needed?
“The old rules don’t deal with this jurors-in-cyberspace issue,” said Siegelman attorney Vince Kilborn. “The old rules are no longer applicable. They are obsolete. It’s time for the U.S. court system to address the Internet.”
U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, refusing to order a new trial, said the jury was not unfairly influenced by outside information drawn from the Internet and e-mail.
Defense attorneys said a new trial should be ordered because jurors communicated with each other by e-mail during the trial and considered outside material from the Internet during deliberations.
Fuller ruled there was evidence that one juror downloaded the indictment of Scrushy and Siegelman from the Internet and that the jury foreman downloaded instructions on being a jury foreman. But he said those acts were not sufficient for him to order a new trial and described some of the evidence from the defense as “speculative and unsubstatiated.”
Siegelman said he was shocked by the ruling.
“The evidence was overwhelming,” Siegelman said. “Jurors were doing their own research on the Internet. I think the 11th Circuit will come in like Shaquille O’Neal and slam dunk a new trial.”
Scrushy attorney Art Leach, also expecting an appeal, said specific evidence from the jurors’ computers was not allowed by Fuller in the post-trial proceedings. He said it would “prove precisely what the jury had access to and when that access occurred.”
Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted after a two-month trial on bribery and conspiracy charges. Siegelman was also convicted on a separate obstruction of justice charge.
Fuller’s ruling referred to a Nov. 17 hearing in which the 12 jurors were called into court one by one and denied that their final verdict was influenced by outside material.
“The evidentiary hearings conducted by the court leave no doubt whatsoever that the documents purporting to be juror e-mails on which the defendants rely are wholly unrelated to any evidence of jury exposure to outside influence,” Fuller said.
Chief prosecutor Louis Franklin said the ruling validated the work of the jurors.
“I think anyone unbiased who sat in court and listened to the evidence would have reached the same verdict,” Franklin said.
Fuller said he will not set sentencing for Siegelman and Scrushy until after he has ruled on a pre-trial motion challenging the racial makeup of the pool of prospective jurors from which juries and grand juries are selected. Kilborn said the case can’t be appealed to the 11th Circuit until Siegelman and Scrushy are sentenced.
Siegelman said Wednesday he is not afraid of being sentenced to prison.
“Fear is not part of my makeup. I hope the judge will give me a chance to go to the 11th Circuit first,” Siegelman said. “I just think the whole thing is a tragedy and a travesty.”
Jurors found Siegelman and Scrushy guilty in a scheme in which Siegelman appointed Scrushy to an influential hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman’s 1999 campaign for a statewide lottery.
Siegelman was also convicted of obstruction of justice for trying to cover up $9,200 given to him by lobbyist Lanny Young to help him purchase a motorcycle.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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