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The Supreme Court has just handed down an order vacating the conviction of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman for honest-services fraud and referring the case for review by the Eleventh Circuit in light of its ruling in Skilling v. United States. (PDF) This decision does not necessarily mark the end of Siegelman’s ordeal. The Supreme Court split on the constitutionality of the honest-services fraud statute under which Siegelman was convicted, on evidence subsequently revealed to have been improperly coerced. Three justices felt the entire statute was unconstitutional and should fall. The remaining six attempted to salvage something from it but also expressed concern about the way the Justice Department was interpreting and applying the statute, and insisted that it be considerably narrowed. With this decision, the ball is back in the Justice Department’s court. It should take full measure of the Skilling decision and abandon the case against Siegelman, which is probably the single most abusive use of the honest-services fraud statute yet—surely more abusive than that of the Skilling case itself. But we’re dealing with a Justice Department that never admits a lapse in judgment, much less abuse of prosecutorial discretion—both of which were in ready supply in this highest profile political prosecution in recent American history. So it will be up to the Eleventh Circuit to apply the Skilling ruling, and then perhaps the case will make a return trip to the High Court if it reinstates any aspect of the Siegelman conviction.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”