Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Jury of His Peers

I'm not picking on a god-fearin', large-livin' CEO, honestly I'm not. But I'm prompted to take one more swing, by the news that, as Ideoblog notes, the SEC plans to file a civil suit against Richard Scrushy, coupled with a nice summation of the government's failure to obtain a criminal conviction:

And [the defense] knew how to encourage the jury to demand more evidence than the government could possibly have. Repeating a refrain from defense closing arguments, jurors said in post-verdict interviews that investigators should have dusted a particularly damaging binder of financial papers to look for Scrushy's fingerprints. They simply did not buy the prosecution's explanation.
Richard Scrushy Jumps Free of a Briar Patch: Ann Woolner, Bloomberg News

"If the glove does not fit, you must acquit." If you can't find the CEO's fingerprints on the binder that a staffer used to present Scrushy with evidence of the fraud, why then, he couldn't have seen it.

Let's hope that the new standard for convicting CEOs of raping their company and shareholders isn't finding the big man's DNA on the victim...

I once sat through an entire medical malpractice trial and came away with greater faith in the jury system. In that case, the jury did the right thing and found for the doctor, but the judge was excellent, and only an incompetent plaintiff's attorney thought the case had enough going for it to merit pursuing. When the insurance company refused to pay him off, he was stuck with going to trial.

But I also watched as all the technically educated jurors were dismissed. I heard an "expert witness" testify for the plaintiff. And I actually began to wonder whether the jury would be able to weigh all the evidence, or whether they would take the side of the young man who'd lost his wife against the doctor who cared for her and the insurance company that thought the doctor was not at fault.

In the Scrushy case, the Feds got outsmarted by the local boys who were part of Scrushy's reputed $26-million defense campaign, abetted by a judge in over her head, and a jury that might've done all right with a moonshine case, but likely didn't know a corporate earnings report from an alternative minimum tax calculation.

In one sense, Scrushy was freed by a jury of his sometime peers — good Christian Alabamians. He might also have been found not-guilty by a jury of multi-millionaire corporate executives, but good luck getting them in a jury box.


Blogger bob said...

In the civil case, they will pobably find him guilty and fine him more money than we'll see in a lifetime, which will be about a weeks pay for him.

I'm just hoping they nail Joe Nacchio.

5:49 AM  

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