Overprosecuted

This is a bit off topic from civil litigation, but Tom Kirkendall, a Houston attorney following the Enron trial, makes the case that the Enron prosecution team or “task force” has been pushing the envelope of prosecution tactics, with disturbing results.

In an unprecedented move, the Task Force has named over 100 co-conspirators in the case. So, the potential definitely exists for substantial testimony about out-of-court statements going to the jury without the defense ever having an opportunity to cross-examine the persons who made the alleged statements. Moreover, fingering unindicted co-conspirators is an equally effective technique for the Task Force to prevent testimony that is favorable to the defense because persons named as unindicted co-conspirators are likely to the assert their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and thus, not be defense witnesses during the trial. Thus, the Task Force’s liberal use of the co-conspirator tag has a double-whammy effect — not only does it allow the Task Force to use out-of-court statements against defendants without having the declarant of the statements subjected to cross-examination, it has also effectively prevented previous Enron-related defendants from obtaining crucial exculpatory testimony from alleged co-conspirators who have elected to take the Fifth and declined to testify.

Kirkendall argues that despite these tactics, the task force botched the broadband prosecution, and already seem to be making mistakes in the Lay/Skilling trial. He has a lot of fun, in particular, with the task force’s indictment against Lay and Skilling, which was apparently so poorly written that the prosecution itself has petitioned the court not to let the indictment be referred to in cross examination. (Tom Kirkendall, Houston’s Clear Thinkers, Jan 27)

Almost makes you nostalgic for Marcia Clark. But probably not Janet Reno. Over at CoyoteBlog, I wonder whether NJ prosecutors are more interested in upholding the law or getting front page pub in the NHL betting case.

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