Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Capitalism & Law: Muzzling Martha's Defense

The next time you hear President Bush or Attorney General Ashcroft argue they need more powers, under the Patriot Act or what-not, to make America safe from its enemies, consider what's transpired in the Martha Stewart trial:
Among the limitations placed by Judge Miriam Goldman Cederbaum [on Martha Stewart's defense team] were the inability to say that the home decorating expert was being prosecuted for proclaiming her innocence in the case or for asserting her First Amendment right to free speech.

The defense also is barred from saying that the securities fraud charge Stewart faces is a novel application of securities laws, and from making statements that would tend to show the government's motives in investigating or prosecuting Stewart were improper. The defense also can't say that the fact Stewart and former broker Peter Bacanovic aren't facing criminal insider trading charges means the government doesn't believe they committed such a crime.
In other words, Stewart is being denied her right to present a defense theory consistent with the facts of the case. And for all of the president's bemoaning "judicial activism" in last week's State of the Union, the judge in Stewart's case appears set to gift wrap a conviction for the prosecutors. Funny how the president never considers prosecutors "activist," only the judges who put individual rights ahead of government power.

No comments: