Friday, February 1, 2008

Ryan lawyers appeal to Supreme Court

As predicted, attorneys for ex-Gov. George Ryan filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court last week.

Dan Webb and former Gov. James Thompson, filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on Ryan’s behalf, seeking to overturn his conviction.

In November, 2007, Ryan began serving a six and one-half year prison sentence at a federal penitentiary in Oxford, Wisconsin.

More than a year before, on April 17, 2006, Ryan, along with his co-defendant and business partner, was convicted on multiple counts of racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and tax violations in connection with the ‘license for bribes’ scandal that began when Ryan was Secretary of State.

Short of appealing to President Bush for a pardon, this is Ryan’s last hope for freedom.

Ryan was supposed to report to prison by Jan. 4, 2006, but several attempts to overturn his conviction were attempted. He was, however, allowed to remain out of jail during the appeals process.

Ryan’s appeals fell short. A dissenting opinion on the Appeals Court, left the door open for Ryan’s attorneys to reach higher for an appeal.

Circuit Judge Michael Kanne issued the sole dissent last August when the Court of Appeals ruled against Ryan. Judge Kanne was also among the minority opinion in October when, by a vote of 6 to 3 vote, Circuit Judges refused to rehear Ryan’s case.

“The trial was riddled with errors that ultimately rendered the proceedings manifestly unfair and unjust, notwithstanding the production of overwhelming incriminating evidence against the appellants,” Kanne wrote, noting that the trial was “broken beyond repair.”

Thompson built his defense on his belief that Ryan did not have a fair trial.

“Ryan deserves a fair trail by jury no matter what the evidence is,” Thompson said, referring to jury misconduct, the sole subject of the appeals.

In the 37-page appeal, attorneys explored three questions. The first concerns the appropriate standard for determining when a deliberating juror in a criminal trial can be removed and replaced with an alternate.

The second question asks if a trial court commits structural error in permitting a jury verdict where more than half the jurors are interrogated in the middle of deliberations about their own misconduct in the presence of a prosecutor.

Finally, the third question asks whether a reviewing court must assess trial errors not only for their individual effects, but also for their cumulative effect on the trial proceedings.

“All these issues are the subject of widespread confusion and disagreement among the lower courts, and all are worthy of this Court’s review,” noted the appeal.

Also in question are the fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution.

The fifth amendment, states that “No person shall be ... deprived of life liberty, or property, without due process of law ...”

The sixth amendment provides, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury, ...”

Experts have said there is an off-chance that the U.S. Supreme Court justices will agree to hear Ryan’s case, though only a small percentage of cases are heard by the high court. Although it was U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who denied Ryan’s request for bail.
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