Skilling v. United States
United States Supreme Court
561 U.S. 358, 130 S.Ct. 2896, 177 L.Ed.2d 619 (2010)
Jeffrey Skilling (defendant) was one of multiple Enron Corporation (Enron) executives indicted for deceiving investors about Enron’s finances prior to Enron’s 2001 bankruptcy. In 2004, Skilling moved to have his trial transferred from Houston to elsewhere, arguing that pretrial publicity surrounding Enron’s bankruptcy had prejudiced the pool of potential jurors. The court denied Skilling’s motion. The court mailed questionnaires to potential jurors to assess bias. Shortly before trial, one of Skilling’s codefendants pled guilty. Skilling made a renewed motion to change venue, arguing that the questionnaires showed likely bias and the other executive’s guilty plea would enhance it. Skilling’s motion was denied. In voir dire, the court excluded potential jurors who showed bias or admitted to being incapable of impartiality. Skilling was found guilty of multiple offenses, including honest-services wire fraud. Skilling appealed. He argued that pretrial publicity rendered his Houston trial unfair and that the honest-services statute was unconstitutionally vague unless construed in a manner that excluded this conduct. The Fifth Circuit found that negative publicity created a presumption of juror bias but the district court’s thorough vetting of potential jurors rebutted the presumption. The Fifth Circuit also concluded that the honest-services statute applied to Skilling’s conduct. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg. J.)
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