Corporate Scandals

Judge Orders No Dream Dates With Sheltered Twelve

Media schlimazel gets Cedarbaumed as jury hears tale of sunny days

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These are Elizabeth Koch's notes on the Martha Stewart trial.

Judge Miriam Cedarbaum spends the early morning hours reciting a condensed version of her jury charge, defining in minute detail circumstantial evidence, unanimity and accomplice witness testimony. She invokes Douglas Faneuil in the latter, "I caution you to scrutinize the accomplice's statement with particular care. Ask yourselves would he benefit more from lying or telling the truth? Did he believe his interests would best be served by testifying falsely or truthfully?" Slam dunk for the defense.

On every count—eight between them—Cedarbaum emphasizes absolute concurrence. "In order to reach a guilty verdict, all jurors must agree that the defendant made at least one false statement or concealed at least one material fact within any given count, and that he or she did this knowingly, willingly and willfully, purposely disregarding the law. It's not enough that some of you agree on one and some the other. The decision must be unanimous."

Throughout her two-hour lecture, only on one instance only does Cedarbaum's language veer from abstract, cyclical legalese: she tells a story (of sorts) to explain circumstantial evidence: "Suppose the day was sunny when you arrived here today, that the blinds were drawn, and someone walks in the room with a dripping umbrella. Then someone else comes in with a dripping raincoat. You may have no direct evidence that it's raining, but based on a combination of fact, reason, and common sense, you may infer that it is." The description chimes in my ears like poetry, like "Bohemian Rhapsody"; from that you may infer the morning was dull as ditchwater.

Around 12 p.m., shortly after the jury's dismissed for deliberations, Cedarbaum receives a note.

"A note!" she chirps. "My jury's had an opportunity to bond," she says, smiling at the yellow college-rule paper as if it were a photo of her grandchildren. "They request to have lunch now so as to include the substitutes, who'll be dismissed once they begin deliberating."

Awww.

Her kiddies pass forward two more notes throughout the afternoon, requesting a phone chart of the calls in and out of Peter Bacanovic's office on December 27, Faneuil's testimony on the same, Annie Armstrong's message logs, Peter's cell and office phone records from 12/27, and SEC officer Helen Glotzer's testimony regarding Peter's February 13 statements. They want one of FBI agent Catherine Farmer's documents, but they can't have it. It's not in evidence.

There is a popular theory that Judge Cedarbaum despises the press; the evidence in support of it is more direct than circumstantial. She says she keeps close watch on her jurors out of respect for their privacy, but her policies seem imperial. Screw the public; they needn't know what goes on here. This is my show. Kind of like what defense attorney Robert Morvillo says about the SEC folk—they run their interviews any damn way they please.

Case in point, an unfortunately smarmy-looking media lawyer crawls out of the floor vents mid-afternoon, during jury deliberations, and approaches the podium. I can't hear his questions, but no matter: Her Honor's response renders them moot on arrival.

Judge: I've never in my eighteen years of practice been asked for the juror's addresses.

Counsel: But…

Judge: In this district and this circuit I'm unaware of any case where the addresses have been requested, let alone granted.

Counsel: I respectfully disagree…

Judge: That was not a criminal case. While we're comparing states, the rule in Connecticut is that neither the address nor the names are released.

Counsel: [Cough. Inaudible question.]

Judge: I certainly do not want to interfere with any juror who wants to be interviewed once I release them.

Counsel: [Inaudible comment.]

Judge: The jurors were made aware the questionnaire would never be public—it's a very unusual request to ask me to violate my promise to the jury.

Her laugh summons visions of a hurtling gavel. Hope the guy has quick reflexes.

Counsel: The public had a right…

Judge: My word is my bond.

Counsel: (Inaudible statement.)

Judge: What case? No Supreme Court case advises it should be made public.

Counsel: [Inaudible statement.]

Judge: I have no intention of preventing reporters from doing their job. My job is to preserve the system of justice and the jury's privacy.

Counsel: [Inaudible question.]

Judge: Cameras are not allowed in the courthouse.

Counsel: [More.]

Judge: What possible relevance? What possible relevance does the face of a juror have on the public? Besides to help sell newspapers.

Counsel: [More.]

Judge: Well, that's fine. This trial is sui generus in many regards. What else?

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Patton Seymour stands: "I would suggest that, to prevent jurors from being harassed, we establish some means of addressing that potentiality."

Judge: I think I can rely on the integrity of the press not to disobey my orders.

The sad little man leaves. Just as the door slams on his heels, Cedarbaum starts yelling, "Is the media lawyer still here? Will someone get him?" A court attendee hauls him back in front of the judge. He stands before her, wrists crossed at his back, chin to trachea.

Judge: I've just received notice that both Illinois and North Carolina agree with my practice.

She smiles and tries to shoo him away again, but he begs for one last scrap.

Counsel: [Inaudible.]

Judge: I'd say, from the time I receive the note and the jury gets seated—about five minutes. I cannot hold up the verdict so a town crier go round people up.

I guess we'll be camping out. And by the way, if anyone's interested in buying a transcript of the trial, the total is $5,327.30 to date. Yeah—the courts assumed you wouldn't be.