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Court reverses Conrad Black conviction

Court reverses Conrad Black conviction
Former media baron Conrad Black (UPI Photo/Brian Kersey) | License Photo

WASHINGTON, June 24 (UPI) -- Former newspaper mogul Conrad Black and several others won new trials Thursday following a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the honest services statute.

Based on the decision in Skilling vs. United States, the high court vacated convictions in Black vs. United States and Weyhrauch vs. United States.

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In a per curiam decision in Weyrauch, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration consistent with Skilling.

In the Black decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court unanimously decided the scope of the honest services law rendered the jury instructions incorrect in the case.

The Black defendants, who faced mail fraud charges, said the jury instructions regarding the honest services law were invalid because it was impossible to tell which of the alternate grounds the jury selected to convict Black.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said defendants forfeited their right to the government-proposed special-verdict forms by which the verdict would have separated out the different grounds and would have indicated the defendants were specifically not guilty of honest-services fraud.

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The appellate court upheld the conviction, saying the defendants bore responsibility for the obscurity of the jury's verdict.

The Supreme Court found the defendants properly objected at trial to the honest-services jury instructions and did not forfeit their right to specificity on the grounds by choosing not to accept the special-verdict forms.

Justice Antonin Scalia filed a partial concurrence in which Justice Clarence Thomas joined, and Justice Anthony Kennedy also filed a partial concurrence.

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