Dead People Suck

Talk about strange bedfellows:

Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions is joining a California Democrat to try to scrap the legal precedent that allowed Enron founder Kenneth Lay’s fraud conviction to be cleared from his record after he died in July.

The clearing of Lay’s record has hurt prosecutors’ efforts to extract $43.5 million in restitution from Lay’s estate. Sessions’ legislation is an attempt to address that.

Working with the Justice Department, which asked for similar legislation shortly after Lay died, Sessions of Mobile joined Democrat Dianne Feinstein [!?!] of California to introduce a bill this week that would keep federal convictions in force when a defendant dies, while allowing victims to continue seeking restitution.

A few clarifications.

First, I noted this odd law on the day St. Ken died:

No prison now. In fact, Ken Lay is an innocent man. From the federal court that would have heard Ken Lay’s appeal:

It is well established in this circuit that the death of a criminal defendant pending an appeal of his or her case abates, ab initio, the entire criminal proceeding. That is, the appeal does not just disappear, and the case is not merely dismissed. Instead, everything associated with the case is extinguished, leaving the defendant “as if he had never been indicted or convicted.”

I wonder if our local bedfellows in politico-business corruption have seen this? Given some of their tactics so far, there is no telling what may happen.

Second, the basis of the rule is that without having been tested by the appeal, the conviction is not reliable. Or at least not reliable enough to leave it standing forever as an official declaration that the man was a criminal. This is one of the few areas where the law is merciful.

Third, nothing in the rule prevents victims from pursuing claims against Lay’s estate. That the whole criminal procedure is as if it never occurred might mean they can not use the conviction as evidence in the civil case, but it does not prohibit a civil suit.

Fourth, what the rule did do is shoot down the government’s criminal restitution claim. They do not like that because when they want restitution as part of a criminal case, they do not have to go to a jury, they get to use hearsay, and they only have to prove by the slimmest of margins that the money was somehow or another related to the criminal activity. It is a VERY government friendly procedure. Filing a separate lawsuit, however, means the estate gets the benefit of a jury, the rules of evidence, and the rules of civil procedure. 

So this isn’t really about right or wrong, fair or unfair, it’s about making it easy for the government to take people’s money. Death taxes, anyone?

Explore posts in the same categories: Alabama's Congressmen, Appellate And Post-Conviction Issues, Trials

One Comment on “Dead People Suck”

  1. walt moffett Says:

    Would wonder if this is a bone for the plaintiff’s bar too.

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