Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Skilling v. United States case brief

Skilling v. United States case brief summary
130 S.Ct. 2896 (2010)

Defendant was convicted in federal district court of charges that included conspiracy to commit "honest services" wire fraud under 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 371, 1343, and 1346. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Defendant, a former executive of a corporation, was alleged to have sought to deprive the corporation and its shareholders of the intangible right of his honest services by engaging in a scheme to deceive the investing public about the corporation's finances. Defendant claimed that his trial should have been moved to a different venue because of pretrial publicity.

  • The Supreme Court found that defendant's Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury was not violated. 
  • No presumption of juror prejudice arose, nor was there a showing of actual prejudice; a comprehensive questionnaire was used in addition to voir dire to ensure against jury bias. 
  • In order to avoid vagueness concerns, the Court held that § 1346 criminalized only schemes to defraud involving bribery or kickbacks, which were the core applications of the honest-services doctrine that predated the statute.
  •  Because defendant was not alleged to have solicited or accepted side payments from a third party in exchange for making the alleged misrepresentations, he did not commit honest services fraud. 
  • Whether the error was harmless or whether it affected any of defendant's other convictions was a matter for remand.

The court of appeals' judgment was vacated insofar as it upheld defendant's conspiracy conviction, and the matter was remanded for further proceedings. The court of appeals' ruling that defendant received a fair trial was affirmed. 6-3 decision on the fair-trial issue; 9-0 decision on honest services fraud. 2 concurrences; 1 dissent in part.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Procedure Criminal Procedure: Examples & Explanations, Sixth Edition
Emanuel Law Outline: Criminal Procedure

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