Hard to find jury of Lord Black's peers
Jury selection starts today in media baron's trial
March 14, 2007
BY MARY WISNIEWSKI Business Reporter Chicago Sun Times
No British lords will appear in the jury pool at the start of Conrad Black's criminal fraud trial today. So how will Black's defense team select a jury of his peers, sympathetic to his side?
The defense will look for jurors who are smart enough to understand a complex case, and who won't be shocked by the idea of someone making millions of dollars in fees, according to Chicago white collar crime attorneys.
Rich could be sympathetic
"The defense will be looking for wealthier people, who may not be stunned by some of the dollar amounts involved," said Thomas M. Durkin, of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, who has both prosecuted and defended white collar criminal cases. He said the defense needs a jury "who understands it's not a crime to make money."
Conrad Black, 62, former head of the company that owns the Chicago Sun-Times, goes on trial along with three others today on charges of stealing about $84 million from the company. The defendants all have pleaded innocent. Jury selection starts today, and opening statements begin Monday.
A key prosecution witness will be David Radler, Black's former business partner and publisher of the Sun-Times, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges.
The case includes allegations that Black misused company money for personal expenses, such as a trip to Bora Bora on a company jet. The defense will want business people on the jury who might be more sympathetic to those kinds of expenses, noted Leonard Cavise, a DePaul College of Law professor and a former criminal defense attorney.
May be easier for feds"The prosecution wants the ordinary person," Cavise said. "The prosecution will say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, when we go to Bora Bora, we have to pay for it.' They want people who think these big corporate CEOs are all crooks anyway."
Steve Miller, of Reed Smith Sachnoff & Weaver, said the defense will seek jurors skeptical of people in high places. Those would include such possible witnesses as former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson and conservative political adviser Richard Perle -- both former directors of Hollinger International, the former name of Sun-Times Media Group.
Much of the defense team's strategy during jury selection will depend on the lawyers' theories of the case, said Michael D. Sher, of Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg, who has done white collar defense.
"If the theory is 'Yes, something happened, but my client wasn't aware of it,' you may want someone who spent a lot of time in a big organization," Sher said. That juror would know that "the guy in the corner office may not be aware of what the guy two doors down is doing," Sher said.
Whatever the defense theory, the defense will have a harder time than the government finding sympathetic jurors.
"The government won't have much difficulty finding people who won't identify with the defendants, especially Mr. Black," Sher said.