Enron's Jeffrey Skilling Seeks New Trial
Attorneys for former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling say the law under which he was convicted in 2006 is "unconstitutionally vague," and that the government has repeatedly misused the law to suit "whatever meaning is necessary to prosecute whatever defendant happens to be in the government's sights."
Skilling's legal team filed a 58-page brief today that will form the basis of their oral arguments before the high court, expected in early 2010.
Skilling's case is one of three the court is hearing this term challenging the so-called "honest services" statute, which makes it a felony for an executive or government official to deprive stakeholders of his or her honest services.
In oral arguments Tuesday on the other two cases, involving publishing magnate Conrad Black and former Alaska legislator Bruce Weyhrauch, Justices expressed deep skepticism about the statute, giving hope to Skilling's legal team.
"We look forward to the Supreme Court's review of Jeff's case and are hopeful he will be granted a new trial," Skilling's lead attorney Daniel Petrocelli wrote in an e-mail to CNBC.
In addition to reviewing Skilling's conviction under the honest services law, the Supreme Court will consider whether it was appropriate to try the case in Enron's home town of Houston. The Skilling brief calls the decision to keep the case in Houston "indefensible," because of pervasive prejudice in the community.
Skilling was convicted in May of 2006 on 19 of 28 criminal counts in Enron's notorious 2001 collapse.
The Justice Department, which will file its own brief with the Court next month, has argued that it is unclear whether the jury convicted Skilling based on the honest services law or on the other laws he was charged with breaking. And prosecutors have argued that the fact that Skilling was acquitted on nine counts proved the jury was impartial.
Skilling is three years into a 24-year sentence at a federal prison in Colorado. A federal appeals court has already ruled that sentence was too harsh, but a re-sentencing has been put on hold pending the Supreme Court review.