After yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that seemed to hand a win to former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, there was a lot of confusion about what it meant, and whether might really step out of jail (or at least get another trial) at some point in the near future.For the best analysis, definitely read Houston attorney Tom Kirkendall, who has been covering the Enron cases more intensely and for longer than anyone else. He knows the case like the back of his hand:
The Court remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further disposition consistent with the Court’s opinion, primarily to determine whether the Skilling’s conviction on the honest services wire fraud charge should lead to a reversal of most or all of the other counts of his conviction. As the Court notes in footnote 47 on page 50, the Fifth Circuit has already indicated that Skilling’s conviction should be set aside in its entirety if any of its three bases ((1) honest services wire fraud, (2) money-or-property wire fraud and (3) securities fraud) is reversed, but the Supreme Court ordered the Fifth Circuit to review that issue again. In view of the fact that the Enron Task Force prosecution heavily relied on the honest services wire fraud charge in presenting its case to the jury against Skilling, my sense is that the Skilling team has the decidedly better argument that the prosecution’s mistake in prosecuting him on that charge was not harmless error and that most or all of the rest of his conviction must be reversed.
Moreover, even though a majority of the Court ruled against Skilling on the issue of whether the trial court erred in not moving the trial away from Houston, Justice Sotomayor’s lively dissent on that issue is the best part of the decision. Justice Sotomayor – who is the most experienced trial judge on the Supreme Court at this time — is clearly appalled at the trial court’s screening of prospective jurors in the face of the overwhelmingly adverse media treatment of Skilling.