This "Today's Learning" selection from Learnist is a follow-up to an earlier pick by Learnist of Chapter 37 of Blogging Enron, titled "Rex Shelby Files Amicus Brief in Support of Scott Yeager," which we described in the previous post on this blog, "'Today's Learning' from Learnist.".
Scott Yeager's victory at the U.S. Supreme Court is an incredibly important event because it clarified an element of the law related to a double-jeopardy tenet known as "collateral estoppel" or "issue preclusion." In simplest terms, issue preclusion states that when certain counts have been decided by the decision of jurors at a trial, then a defendant cannot be charged with other counts that are also based on the same underlying issues upon which the already decided counts were based. It was obvious that the issue preclusion doctrine applied to several of the Enron Broadband defendants; however, Scott had to go to the Supreme Court to get the lower courts to properly apply the doctrine to his counts.
Author Cara Ellison noted the significance of Scott Yeager's victory in Chapter 38 of Blogging Enron: The Enron Broadband Story:
"A key point to realize is that Scott Yeager affected the law of this country through his appeal and the decision of the Supreme Court in his favor. The ruling of the Supreme Court has since been applied to other defendants in other cases. I am also told that, of all his accomplishments during his struggle against the DOJ [Department of Justice], the thing that pleases Rex Shelby the most is the fact that the Supreme Court adopted the points in his amicus brief in their decision on Scott’s case – this means that Rex also changed the law of the United States for the better."
Does the victory by Scott Yeager in the U.S. Supreme Court mean that the system "works". Here is what Cara wrote about that topic in the same chapter of Blogging Enron:
"... After a seven-year nightmare for Scott and his family which had drained a major portion of his life savings, Scott was a free man. Some people say that the legal system 'worked' for Scott because he was eventually exonerated. But did it really 'work'?
Scott Yeager was an innocent man who had been charged with more than 100 criminal counts, more than any other Enron defendant. Scott was paraded in a farcical 'perp walk' in front of cameras in handcuffs – think of the trauma of that image on Scott’s family! For years, Scott’s existence narrowed down to the enormous task of defending himself against the U.S. federal government, the most powerful entity in the world. Scott endured a trial that last for more than three months, a trial in which he received only acquittals and not a single conviction on any count. And then Scott had to continue to battle the Department of Justice (DOJ) which threatened him with yet another trial. Scott spent seven years of his life, and a major portion of his life savings, defending himself.
In the end, Scott Yeager was exonerated, but he could never recover the lost years of his life and the lost savings wasted on defending himself against false charges. And he could never take away the stress and trauma of the horrible experience from the minds of his family. There really is no way for a defendant to 'win' when he has been falsely charged. He can survive the experience and he can even 'beat' the prosecutors, as Scott did, but he cannot undo the damage of a false indictment and a false prosecution, even when he is exonerated. And an innocent defendant will never get anything in recompense from the federal prosecutors who falsely accused and prosecuted him (see the post in this book, 'Being a Prosecutor Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry')."
Blogging Enron: The Enron Broadband Story by Cara Ellison contains nearly 60 images, each of which is also included and described in the Learnist board, "Blogging Enron Book Images". For information about Learnist, check out the post on this blog, "Learning with Learnist."