“Until Death Do Us Part”, an expression most often heard in wedding vows. But did you know that the concept also applies to a jury verdict for commission of fraud and conspiracy?
Lawyers for Kenneth Lay successfully argued to a US District Judge that Lay’s conviction for fraud and conspiracy in the Enron case should be erased now that Ken is dead. The Judge found that a 2004 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling applies and that a Defendant’s death pending appeal extinguishes his entire case because he had not had a full opportunity to challenge the conviction and the government should not be able to punish a dead Defendant or his estate.
While we would not recommend this technique as a form of estate planning, we can assume that the heirs and beneficiaries of the Lay estate are not disappointed about having the conviction erased. Of course, we urge our corporate clients to avoid the type of conduct and activities that led to Kenneth Lay’s conviction in the first place.