Sample Case Brief on Skilling vs. the United States
Skilling v. the United States
130 S.Ct. 2896 (2010)
The defendant Jeffrey Skilling, one of three executives at Enron Corporation was accused of manipulating Enron Corporation’s financials to mislead the public on the Corporation’s profitability. The defendant was alleged to have deprived the Corporation and its shareholders of the rights to his reliable and honest services. The defendant sought to have the venue of his trial moved due to pretrial publicity.
The presented issues included the question of whether the federal statute of “depriving another individual of the intangible rights of his honest services” was constitutionally vague.
There was also the question of whether it was possible to draw the jury who was immune to the community’s presumed prejudice when the whole community was enraged by the alleged actions of the defendant. Also it was considered steps, which the court should take to avoid prejudice in such cases.
The Supreme Court held that there was no violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury. The Supreme Court also rejected the defendant’s request for a shift of venue, claiming that the jury was impartial despite the public opinion.
There was no instance of juror prejudice through presumption or actual prejudice. The jury was subjected to voir dire and a comprehensive questionnaire to exclude any jury bias. Concerned with vagueness, § 1346 was upheld by the court as criminalizing the schemes that involved kickbacks and bribery. The defendant was held not to have breached § 1346 as he did not receive or solicit any alleged payments from the third party and as such did not commit honest services fraud.
The Supreme Court upheld the defendant’s conspiracy conviction and the judgment vacated due to this fact. In the fair trial question it was given a 6-3 decision, honest services fraud a 9-0 decision, one dissident, and two concurrences.