News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Siegelman, Scrushy deserve another trial

When a judge tells jurors not to discuss a case among themselves, reasonable people assume there is an important reason for the instructions from the bench. So when there is evidence that jurors defied that order, reasonable people have to assume the outcome of the trial was seriously flawed.

That's what attorneys for former Gov. Don Siegelman and ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy told U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller this week about the Montgomery trial this summer in which jurors found both men guilty of bribery and conspiracy.

The guilty verdicts stunned both defendants and called into question the relationship of all public officeholders and their campaign contributors. In this case, federal and state prosecutors said Mr. Scrushy arranged $500,000 in contributions to Mr. Siegelman's failed education lottery campaign. In exchange, prosecutors charged, the governor appointed him to an influential health regulatory board.

No testimony surfaced of a quid pro quo — the seat on the board in exchange for campaign money. Yet, jurors, some of whom talked about the case in e-mails, found both men guilty. One thought Mr. Siegelman put the money in his pocket.

The filing for a new trial has several important aspects. If Mr. Scrushy gave a campaign gift, did that preclude him from serving on a state board? Not according to tradition in Alabama. So, why single him out?

Then there is the matter of the jurors failing to abide by the judge's instructions. Are they to be held in contempt as punishment? Assuming they are, that doesn't remedy the defective deliberations among jurors.

This verdict should not stand because the seven counts against Mr. Siegelman on this specific charge are more political than criminal. And the jury disobeyed the judge.

Mr. Siegelman and Mr. Scrushy deserve fair trials.

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