Attorneys for businessman Richard Scrushy and former Alabama Governor Don Siegleman have filed a joint Motion for a New Trial in federal court asking for a court order "vacating their convictions and granting them a new trial...because Defendants were denied their Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial before an impartial jury due to jury exposure to extrinsic evidence and jury misconduct." Also, could an old Scrushy attorney be coming onto this case?More >>
MONTGOMERY, Ala., September 29, 2006 -- The refiled Scrushy/Siegelman Motion for a New Trial filed shortly after 4 p.m. in federal court in Montgomery takes no chances with the identity of jurors following a fiasco with the filing earlier in the week.
Attorneys for the two defendants filed their original motion on September 25, 2006 and all looked fine until problems were discovered with the exhibits which allowed the names and other information of some jurors to be made available to the public, including the news media.
After the problems came to light, Judge Mark Fuller sealed the documents and they were pulled off the federal government filing system.
However, the newly filed motion takes things a step too far, even redacting names mentioned in newspaper articles and a publicly available Internet article. I have not been able to talk with anyone on the Scrushy or Siegelman defense teams to find out why those names are now redacted in the filing. My only guess is that a) it is out of an abundance of caution or b) Judge Mark Fuller prefers it that way.
WSFA.com itself discovered problems with the original exhibits when attempting to print out one of the exhibits shortly after the original filing and pulled the exhibits down until Tuesday morning when the Birmingham News revealed the names in a newspaper article. I took them back down later in the early evening on Tuesday.
Questions have been asked as to why WSFA.com then did not chose to go back into our original story and reveal names later written in the Birmingham News.
It's quite simple, the original motion went to great lengths to protect the name of jurors not already made public and indicated in a footnote:
"This Court has previously ordered that the identities of the jurors in this matter are to remain confidential. In compliance with this Court's direction, Defendants' motion will not refer to any jurors by name except when this motion references published news articles where the jurors publicly disclosed their own identities by apparently consenting to the interviews upon which the news stories were based. Similarly, with the exception of such news stories, Defendants have redacted the names or other identifying information from this motion and all exhibits that are attached to this motion. Defendants will provide the Court in camera an the Government with unredacted copies of all exhibits. Defendants will also file under seal with the Clerk an additional copy of this motion with unredacted copies of all exhibits."
Scrushy attorney Art Leach is a stickler for making every effort to remain within the confines of Judge Fuller's orders. Through many conversations during and after the trial, I felt I knew enough about the way he does business to know that his intent in this filing was to not release the names of jurors publicly (except those already available in the media).
So, as easy and convenient as it would have been to add more details to our story and not feel like other news agencies were beating us on the story, I chose to go with the original intent of the filing, the trial judge, and at least what I knew of the general way of business of one of the attorneys involved.
Some would call this decision wrong. I've heard -"What about freedom of the press?" I've also heard, "It's out there why don't you show it to the public?" The public does have the right to know.
However, it is clear in this case that Judge Mark Fuller and attorney Art Leach did not want this information available for public viewing other than as described in the motion. When the picture is that clear and involve instructions from the Court that are consistent with the protection of the identity of jurors, I felt the choice was clear. At this time, it is up to each juror when and if they wish their names to become public.
The name of the foreman and at least one juror are a matter of public record from interviews they have given, including to WSFA. Many educated deductions can be made from information already in the public. Most of the other names are not public knowledge except as mentioned in a few media outlets. I saw no need to fan the flames. The names may eventually become public if and when other jurors decide they want their voices to be heard, whether through the media or possibly in court.
Here now are the filings in accordance with the Court's orders. (Available at left)