Friday, October 31, 2008

Ted Stevens: What, Me Convicted?

I'd like to know where Sen. Ted Stevens learned his criminal law.
Oh, that's right: Harvard Law School, class of 1950.
A former U.S. Attorney, Stevens now has an aggressive interpretation -- one might say, a Williams & Connolly-ian interpretation -- of what it means to be "convicted."
On Thursday, Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
“I’ve not been convicted yet,” Stevens insisted. “There’s not a black mark by my name yet, until the appeal is over and I am finally convicted, if that happens."

Is Stevens right, in some bizarro technical sense, or is it time for a little refresher course? On Oct. 27, a 12-member jury in Washington found Stevens guilty of seven felony counts of lying on financial disclosure statements. Sounds convicted to me; that's certainly the plain-language understanding of the term. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, moreover, speak of "post-conviction procedures" initiated once the verdict is rendered. Case closed? No, it gets trickier!

18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20) states that "What constitutes a conviction [is] determined in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction in which the proceedings were held." In immigration law, for instance, if I read the cases right, "conviction" requires a sentence to be rendered. And in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, as well, the "judgment of conviction" is something signed by the judge after the verdict and sentence is rendered.
So, uhh, if I get this right: Stevens was convicted, but the judgment of conviction has not yet been rendered. Meaning: pick the definition that best suits your purpose!

1 comment:

Francis Deblauwe said...

Another funny cartoon at the Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 blog: "Alaska: State of Denial."