Illinois Gov. Ryan's Conviction Upheld:

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit today upheld the conviction of former Illinois Governor George Ryan and an associate on various criminal charges. As the Chicago Tribune reported here, Ryan was accused of substantial corruption during his terms as both Governor and Secretary of State. The panel divided over whether (in the dissent's words) a "flood of errors" relating to jury deliberations justified overturning the conviction. The majority opinion by Judge Wood (joined by Judge Manion) begins:

This appeal comes to us after an investigation that lasted for years and a jury trial that lasted more than six months. In the end, the two defendants, former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan, Sr., and his associate Lawrence E. Warner, were convicted on various criminal charges. The case attracted a great deal of public attention, and thus the district court handling the trial had to handle a number of problems, some of which were common and others less so. The fact that the trial may not have been picture-perfect is, in itself, nothing unusual. The Supreme Court has observed more than once that "taking into account the reality of the human fallibility of the participants, there can be no such thing as an error-free, perfect trial, and ... the Constitution does not guarantee such a trial." . . . It is our job, in this as in any other criminal appeal, to decide whether any of the court's rulings so impaired the fairness and reliability of the proceeding that the only permissible remedy is a new trial.

The dissent, by Judge Kanne, begins:

My colleagues in the majority concede that the trial of this case may not have been "picture-perfect," -- a whopping understatement by any measure. The majority then observes that the lack of a picture-perfect trial "is, in itself, nothing unusual." I agree that from my experience this is a realistic proposition. There is rarely perfection in any human endeavor -- and in particular jury trials. What we expect from our judicial system is not an error free trial, but a trial process that is properly handled to achieve a fair and just result. That fair and just result was not achieved in this case.

A Northwestern Law Student:
Permanent link: here.

Explanation on how to make a permanent link to a Seventh Circuit case: priceless.
8.21.2007 3:25pm
The Cabbage:
As an IL resident, I'm thrilled to see that crook finally get sent to jail. I hope Blago is next.
8.21.2007 3:41pm
Truth Seeker:
Does anyone know if the judges sided along political lines? It seems to be happening a lot these days.
8.21.2007 4:00pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
The Manions are ultra-Catholic and ultra-conservative. The judge's father Clarence, dean of Notre Dame Law School for years, had a conservative talk show for twenty-some years, first on radio and then on television.
8.21.2007 4:04pm
Salaryman (mail):
I'm not a criminal lawyer, so this may be a perfectly appropriate resolution of the matter, and the recital of facts certainly suggests that Ryan engaged in some shady dealing.

However, I wonder what the criminal/constitutional lawyers think about the issues raised by retention of jurors who arguably lied under oath in voir dire. I know I'd just as soon not have my criminal culpability decided by jurors who potentially faced prosecution at the discretion of the very body (the US Dept. of Justice) that was trying to convict me. Obviously, such jurors would feel substantial pressure to placate the US Atty's office by voting to convict. Is the dissent off base in thinking this justified a mistrial?
8.21.2007 4:21pm
[In response to "Truth Seeker"] No. Wood is a Clinton nominee, Manion and Kanne are both Reagan appointees.
8.21.2007 5:28pm
chuckC (mail):
Truth Seeker,
George "Safe Roads" Ryan scrambles ordinary political lines. I've been a Republican my whole life and I want to see this bastard rot in hell. He should have been charged with murder for what his greed did to the Willis family.
8.21.2007 5:42pm
Maybe W. will pardon Ryan or commute his sentence.
8.21.2007 6:05pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
I know Kanne. A Reagan appointee, he is not a bleeding heart liberal by any means. He has a lot of experience as a trial judge (state and federal) and if I remember correctly he was a prosecutor before that. Not one to insist on undue perfectionism in the trial court. If he says that the trial fell short, I'm inclined to believe it.
8.21.2007 6:18pm
I can't imagine being a partner at Winston &Strawn -- if reports are correct, they represented Ryan through this whole thing pro bono, at a value of over $20 million. That's a pretty bad hit to the PPP to defend a guy who most of Illinois, Republican or Democrat, thinks is scum at this point.
8.21.2007 6:19pm

Since Ryan was convicted on virtually all counts the value of his defense was close to $0.

He could have defended himself and done just as poorly.
8.21.2007 7:11pm
True, but even when you lose you normally have to pay your criminal defense lawyer. And Dan Webb's billing rate is really high, to say nothing of the army of other associates and partners that assuredly did work on the case. That's a whole lot of billable time eaten by the firm.
8.21.2007 8:02pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Ryan will be the third Illinois governor since I was a kid to go to prison.
8.22.2007 2:03am
Dave N (mail):
Judge Manion was a dangerous ideologue--we knew that because the Alliance for Justice and their ilk said so--and as a result he was confirmed by a vote of 48-46.

So of course he ruled for a fellow Republican--oh wait, he didn't. And of course he is a shallow thinker--oh wait, he isn't.
8.22.2007 3:06am
NickM (mail) (www):
Winston &Strawn got a lot of firm advertising by handling this case. That may make it worth the time expended.

8.22.2007 7:28am
Emo Cobb:
Jurors lie in almost every case. Their names should never have been spoken in court.

The trial judge seems to be the worst kind - whoever argues longest and loudest wins.
8.22.2007 5:39pm