Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How Much Money Is Being Wasted on the Siegelman Case?

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy recently filed appeals of their criminal convictions with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Our initial reaction? How much money is going to be wasted on a case that should have been kicked out of court before the first witness ever took the stand?

We showed in a recent series of posts that the district court in Montgomery, Alabama, and the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, cheated Siegelman and Scrushy on at least five major grounds.

Here is a shocking point to consider: It is undisputed that the alleged criminal transaction between Siegelman and Scrushy took place outside the five-year statute of limitations. Had the prosecution been forced to present an indictment with specifics regarding the time frame, the case would have been over before it started. But trial judge Mark Fuller allowed prosecutors to get by with a vague indictment. And the 11th Circuit refused to correct the error, even though the defense raised the issue in a proper manner for a case involving an unclear indictment.

A case that never should have gotten off the ground is going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court? That speaks volumes about the waste and corruption in our broken justice system.

Siegelman and Scrushy undoubtedly have taken huge financial hits from having to defend the case. And one can only guess at how much money the government has spent, when its prosecutors had to know that they never had a case to begin with.

Defense attorneys contend in court documents that the Supreme Court should hear the case in order to clarify what evidence is needed to prove a federal bribery case.

Actually, the evidence needed already is clear. The law requires an "explicit quid pro quo," a something-for-something deal. But the trial court in the Siegelman/Scrushy case did not require that in the jury instructions, and the 11th Circuit refused to correct the mistake.

The Siegelman/Scrushy case has no business going before the nation's highest court. The U.S. Department of Justice should request that the case against Siegelman/Scrushy be dismissed, as it did in the case of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). The DOJ then should conduct a criminal investigation of Judge Mark Fuller, the 11th Circuit's three-judge panel, the federal prosecutors who brought the case--and any political figures who might have instigated it.

They are the ones responsible for a massive waste of private and public resources.

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