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January 6, 2006

Martha Stewart conviction upheld

As detailed in a bunch of news stories linked here at How Appealing, the Second Circuit today affirmed Martha Stewart's and her co-defendant's convictions.  You can access the opinion here, and find an extended summary and commentary here from the White Collar Crime Prof Blog.   I suspect that many may react to this news by wondering, "But wait, didn't she already serve her sentence?"  Of course, Martha did already serve five months behind bars and another five under home confinement, though I think she is still finishing up her two-year period of supervised release.

Beyond that technically, I think the Martha news should prompt some reflection on an important distinction between capital and non-capital cases concerning the pace of appellate review.  Many seek habeas and other reforms to quicken the pace of the review  of capital sentences because defendants are avoiding the application of their sentence during appellate review.  But, for many non-capital defendants, the slow pace of appellate review can sometimes undermine the efficacy of even appealing. As in Martha's case, often a defendant may complete much of their sentence even before an initial appeal gets decided.  (Or, recall the Arthur Andersen convictions overturned by the Supreme Court last year: prevailing on appeal provided little solace to a company that was functionally killed by the initial convictions.)

January 6, 2006 at 03:27 PM | Permalink

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» Stewart and Bacanovic Convictions Upheld from White Collar Crime Prof Blog
The Second Circuit upheld the convictions of Martha Stewart and Peter Bacanovic on conspiracy, false statement, perjury (Bacanovic only), and obstruction of an agency investigation charges in a published opinion (available on Findlaw here). The opinion... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 7, 2006 9:45:26 AM

Comments

It should be noted that the trial judge originally allowed Stewart to remain free pending appeal -- an opportunity the majority of defendants don't get.

Stewart herself then changed her mind, and asked to serve out her sentence before the appeal was concluded, citing a desire to get her legal troubles behind her.

Although she will never admit it, I suspect she was advised that the appeal was a long-shot. Given that her sentence was only five months, getting it over with was probably a good move.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jan 6, 2006 4:31:29 PM

It certainly made sense for her company's stock price to get the prison term over with, instead of having it hang over her indefinitely.

Posted by: Brian Kleinhaus | Jan 7, 2006 10:51:44 AM

....Martha was convicted of obstructing federal AntiTrust law, under U.S. Code Title 18, Section 1505 {"Antitrust Civil Process Act"}.

Does anyone, including Martha and this appellate court, realize that this was fundamentally an "antitrust" prosecution ?

No, because it was presented and prosecuted as a 'securities fraud' case. However, the phony securities-fraud charge was instantly dismissed by the trial judge... due to zero evidence of such a crime.

Government courts tend to strongly support other government courts & government prosecutors -- a very collegial system... and the vast amount of 'law' and 'regulation' on the books make it quite easy to nail anyone, despite any basic issues of guilt or innocence.

Posted by: Ferelli | Jan 8, 2006 1:44:38 PM

I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. You make an excellent point here. As I recall, Martha Stewart said somethign to the effect that she'd just as soon serve her sentence while the appeal proceeded as she felt she could get back to her life all the sooner is she did.

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