Skilling Case Issue: Is Fair Trial Possible In Internet Age?


The Supreme Court hears arguments today on whether Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling's conviction should be overturned because the prejudice against him in Houston was so strong and pervasive that he could not receive a fair trial, says the New York Times. It has been two decades since the Supreme Court has considered a major change of venue case. Its jurisprudence is rooted in cases based on small communities dominated by a single local newspaper and perhaps a few local television news outlets. “The law has been slow to adapt to a more general, more intense and yet more atomized media environment,” the Times says.

How potential jurors become informed in the Internet era cuts in two directions. It may now be harder than ever for defendants to find wholly untainted jurors in their own communities. Still, a venue change in a high-profile case is less likely than ever to solve the problem. In a Supreme Court brief in the Skilling case, the federal government urged the court not to adopt an approach prompted by the proliferation of new media that would mean “no trial will be possible in the most nationally significant cases.”

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