But that’s precisely what the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did with regard to the Houston Chronicle’s coverage of the demise of Enron generally and the prosecution of Jeff Skilling specifically (see pp. 41-45 of the Fifth Circuit decision in Skilling’s appeal).
And now the Supreme Court has decided to review the Fifth Circuit’s refusal to grant a Skilling a new trial in another venue because of that presumption of community prejudice. That almost never happens.
So, what does Loren Steffy — the Chronicle’s main business columnist and one of the main leaders of the mob against Skilling (see here) — have to say about the Supreme Court’s decision to review his handiwork?:
More surprising was the court’s decision to review the venue issues. The district court never gave much credence to the argument that pretrial publicity and Enron’s stature in Houston tainted potential jurors, and Skilling’s attorney, Dan Petrocelli, never mentioned it his is argument before the appeals court. As I’ve said before, the media coverage issue is especially interesting, given that someone from Skilling’s legal team apparently was actively engaging in the media coverage by making anonymous posts on Chronicle blogs, including this one.
So, let’s review. Houston’s only daily newspaper reports on the demise of one the city’s largest employers in such a biased fashion that an appellate court uses it as a basis for finding a presumption of community prejudice in the criminal trial of one of the company’s leading executives. Then, the Supreme Court of the United States finds the issue so troubling that it decides to review it, which rarely happens in regard to this particular issue.
And the leader of the mob’s reaction to all this?:
(i) That “the district court never gave much credence” to the issue?Well, the Fifth Circuit has already decided that the district court was wrong about that.
(ii) That Skilling’s lawyer “never mentioned it” during oral argument?Oral argument is driven by the appellate judges’ questions to the lawyers, which in this case were directed to the honest services wire-fraud issue. A substantial part of Skilling’s appellate briefs addressed the community prejudice issue.
(iii) That the Chronicle’s biased coverage was no big deal because someone from Skilling’s team attempted to provide at least a small dose of balance to the Chronicle’s biased coverage of the Skilling trial by commenting on Chronicle blog sites?
So much for fair and balanced reporting, eh?
Meanwhile, over the past couple of years, precisely what happened to Enron has also taken down numerous trust-based Wall Street firms and substantial evidence has arisen that the Enron Task Force engaged in widespread prosecutorial misconduct in prosecuting Skilling.
The Chronicle has not even acknowledged the former, while it has soft-pedaled coverage of the serious scandal represented by the latter.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if that, in its haste to lead the mob against Skilling and Enron, the Chronicle misses what Larry Ribstein has characterized as the real crime in regard to Enron — the prosecution of Skilling?