Friday, February 3, 2006

Email for the Defense in White Collar Case

The National Law Journal reports (Jan. 25, 2006):
"Legal Technology - E-Mail Saves the Day."

Key e-mails and the gamble of letting the defendant take the stand helped a Houston lawyer accomplish what many would have bet against: winning a defense verdict for an energy trading executive in the heart of Enron country.

Thomas A. Hagemann of Dallas' Gardere Wynne Sewell convinced a federal jury in Houston recently that Todd Reid, 43, the former trading executive at Duke Energy Corp., did not illegally manipulate the company's gas and power trades from March 2001 to May 2002 to inflate his unit's profits to reward himself and his traders with huge bonuses. U.S. v. Kramer, No. 4:04cr155 (S.D. Texas).
The defense team was pleased to have a jury with 10 college grads (some with advanced degrees). What sort of voir dire could lead to that? Or did they just get lucky?
Contrary to the government's theory that Reid and Kramer were trying to hide something from the company, "the vast weight of Reid's e-mails" showed on cross-examination that the former Duke vice president "did his best to make sure that everyone was communicating," Hagemann said.

* * *

. . . a second defining moment of the trial was when Reid spoke to the jury himself . . .

". . . It is a truism -- or it is often said -- that when a defendant takes the stand, the focus shifts from the weight of the government's evidence to whether a defendant is telling the truth. If the jury believes him, he is acquitted. If they don't, he is guilty as charged. They believed him," Hagemann said.

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