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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Judge Denies Westport’s Martha Stewart New Trial

A federal judge today turned down a motion by Westport’s Martha Stewart for a second trial based on allegations that a juror lied about his arrest record on a questionnaire.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum came two months after Stewart and broker Peter Bacanovic were convicted of lying to authorities about Stewart’s sale of ImClone Systems stock.

Stewart said her right to a fair trial was compromised when juror Chappell Hartridge had failed to disclose a prior arrest in a domestic dispute on his questionnaire.

Stewart lawyer Robert Morvillo said he would have struck Hartridge from the jury had he known the information during the jury selection process. Hartridge has not spoken publicly about the matter.

“Defendants have failed to demonstrate that Hartridge’s purported nondisclosures justify vacating their convictions and granting a new trial,” Cedarbaum wrote.

In a juror questionnaire, the defense had said, Hartridge said he had never been in court other than for a minor traffic violation.

Morvillo wrote that Hartridge “dishonestly suppressed information concerning a gender-related incident to be able to sit in judgment of a well-known and highly successful woman in a case alleging false statements.”

The juror also allegedly failed to disclose on his jury questionnaire that he had been sued three times. The defense filing said civil judgments had been entered against him in each case.

The judge also rejected arguments by Stewart that public comments made after the trial by Hartridge, who was by far the most outspoken juror on the panel, showed a bias against the homemaking entrepreneur.

On the day of the guilty verdict, he said publicly that he believed the decision was “a victory for the little guys.”

The judge said that the statement did not reveal an agenda to punish the wealthy, but rather that Hartridge likely had been invited to speculate on the impact of the verdict.

Stewart and Bacanovic were convicted March 5 of lying about the circumstances of Stewart’s sale of 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems stock, just before it plunged on a negative government report.

They are scheduled to be sentenced June 17. Legal experts expect them to receive 10 to 16 months in prison, although Cedarbaum could allow them to serve as much as half the time in home confinement.


Posted 05/05/04 at 05:50 PM  Permalink


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