Is Ken Lay innocent now?

By dying before sentencing, has Ken Lay technically become innocent? Are potential fines and restitution now moot?

That’s what I heard on the news tonight. Since he had filed an appeal from conviction, and cannot defend himself on the sentencing, the criminal proceedings abate, the conviction is set aside, no order for fines or restitution, and the presumption of innocence continues to apply - he died an innocent man.

Any American legal Dopers able to comment?

I’m only an illegal, and at most sporadic, doper, but I hope they sue his estate to the point where his grandchildren have to prostitute themselves to be able to afford a decent nanny.

Can they do that? Just the sueing for damages part.

What’s an illegal Doper?

I, for one, would rather not know the answer to that question. :smiley:

Technically, wouldn’t he only have become innocent at some infinitesimal instant after his death?

Well, the news item I heard indicated that because he had filed an appeal from conviction, the criminal proceedings had not finally concluded, and the presumption of innocence continued to apply. But that may just have been a reporter’s take on it.

Oh, sure, typical head-in-the-sand approach of those in authority. It’s not a problem when a few illegal Dopers sneak in and are cleaning the hamsters’ cages, cuz they’re just taking a job that legal Dopers won’t touch. But the hamsters are vital to the SDMB’s continued existence, as we found yesterday. We’re sacrificing our hamster security for the “comfort” the illegal Dopers provide.

And that won’t be the end of it. When they send word back to the message boards they came from, more and more illegal Dopers sneak in from web-boards like the Left Behind Site and the Bagpiper web-site, and, sooner or later, the message boards from Canadia! Then they’ll start taking the real jobs - the mod jobs, the SDSAB jobs - maybe even casting covetous eyes on the job of the Perfect Master himself! when are you going to wake up and build a proper electronic wall to keep them out? soon it will be too late!

My understanding of U.S. law, which may be wrong and is why I asked the questions in the OP, is that regardless of an appeal, a trial is not officialy concluded until sentencing.

This NYT link (registration, I think, required) provided in this Pit thread seems to support me.

I, also, would love it if a U.S. lawyer would chime in.

OK, this is funny.
I didn’t know you were funny.
(strikes another chalk line through the field of her ignorance)

Houston Chronicle is reporting that the charges will likely be abated, and that the plaintiffs in the civil suit will not be able to rely on the jury verdict in the criminal case to prove anything: will have to start from scratch, and try to get a civil order freezing the estate’s assets as soon as the Federal Court lifts its freezing order in the criminal case.

Death could clear Lay

Insights into great truths always come at 3 in the morning.


Right, I’m getting tired of waiting.

:: NP sketches pentagram::

:: places copies of the U.S. Constitution, Title 18 of the USCA, Black’s Law Dictionary, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the most recent volume of the U.S Reports at the five points of the pentagram::

:: burns copy of USCA, Title 4, Chapter 1::

:: strikes centre of pentagram three times with gavel::

:: assumes bailiff voice and calls out three times::

"Bricker! Minty Green! Jodi! Dewey! Campion! I summon thee!!

:: sits back to await results::

OK, I am not a lawyer, but here’s what I understand:

  1. He has been found guilty by a competent court of law. That guilty verdict is binding until and unless reversed on appeal.

  2. The fact that an appeal was pending at time of death is immaterial to the above. Remember “presumed innocent until proven guilty”? The flip side of that is present here. He has been convicted on grounds that warrant potential for an appeal. Hence he is to be presumed guilty until reversible error is established, on the basis of the presumed validity of the actions of the trial court.

  3. His case, however, would not have ended until sentencing, with or without an appeal. And the terms of his sentence, including asset forfeiture, cannot be imposed after death.

  4. A civil (tort) proceeding against his estate for his presumably ill-gotten gains is not, AFAIK, affected by his state of corporateness.

I hope that some objective government agency does a DNA test on the corpse, to be sure it’s him.

I wouldn’t put it past him to have found some homeless person who vaguely matched his description, did plastic surgery to make him a “double,” killed him, and then intends that he and his family will head to Brazil with all his fortune still intact.

Remember Fletch?

What on Earth is a “state of corporateness”?

So the appeal is immaterial and since he hadn’t been sentenced yet his guilty verdict is thrown out, thus plunging once probable attempts at financial restitution by the government and civil lawsuits by injured parties into chaos. Why is there such a long period between a verdict and sentencing and will this case bring that delay into legal discussion and possibly cause said delays to be shortened in the future?

People go to prison while their cases are being appealed. They are not considered innocent just because they file appeals.

Unknown if it was a factor in this case, but pre-sentencing reports, summarizing relevant information about prior convictions, family details, etc. are prepared following a conviction.

Just for the record, in the U.S. we don’t hold children (or grandchildren) responsible for the crimes of their parents (or grandparents). Taking away his ill-gotten gains: a good thing. Punishing his family for generations to come: not a good thing (unless you can prove that they were complicit in his crimes).