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Life Arts    H1'ed 1/20/15

Magistrate's Deceit Discovered in Siegelman Case - Does Anyone Care?

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Yes, a U.S. Magistrate judge named Charles S. Coody (Middle District of Alabama) was assigned to hear motions from Siegelman and Scrushy, seeking a new trial. Two of their grounds for new trial were: (1) That prosecutors threatened and coached key government witness Nick Bailey and failed to turn over a three-ring binder where he allegedly kept notes of what he was being told to say; (2) That Leura Canary*, then U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, did not actually abide by her announced recusal. Canary's husband, Bill Canary, had worked for Siegelman's political opponents (and is extremely close to Karl Rove), so she had a major financial conflict of interest. She and her family stood to make money from Siegelman being out of the picture, and her failure to actually stay out of the case deprived defendants of their constitutional right to an impartial prosecutor.

Coody states in court documents that he ordered all documents requested by defendants, reviewed them in camera (privately, in his chambers) and found no "exculpatory matter," nothing to help defendants' cases. We just learned last week that lawyers for both Siegelman and Scrushy state in briefs that Coody never reviewed the Canary material--he ordered the Bailey documents, but never ordered the Canary documents. This means information about Leura Canary's supposed recusal has never been reviewed, and maybe more importantly, a federal judge lied about how he handled it.

As your readers know, legal cases are driven by precedent--both the kind that is longstanding and the kind that is recent. In subsequent rulings, both trial and appellate judges have repeatedly denied Siegelman and Scrushy motions, based to a great extent on Coody's ruling that he found nothing helpful to defendants in the Canary documents. Even the denial in December 2014 of Siegelman's request to be released from prison to help prepare for his January 2015 appeal was based largely on Coody's ruling.

Coody made his ruling in June 2012, but we just learned about his dishonest actions last week. I broke the story on my Legal Schnauzer blog, but so far, it has not been picked up in the mainstream press. In my view, Coody might have committed criminal fraud, and if others are covering for him, that could lead to conspiracy charges. In terms of the justice system and the Siegelman case, this is a much bigger story than the wife-beating saga of trial judge Mark Fuller. Any kind of domestic abuse is always alarming, but the Fuller story mostly is about his behavior in private. The Coody story is about corruption at the heart of the judicial process; it's about deprivation of fundamental rights and abuse of a system that we all fund with our tax dollars. My hope is that it will reach an audience that goes far beyond my blog.

The big question: What is in the Canary documents, e-mails and such, that multiple judges so badly want to keep out of public view?

I never cease to be disappointed and dismayed by the laziness and lack of curiosity on the part of many in the corporate press. Might I ask how you came up with this rather startling discovery about Judge Coody? And if you found this information, might some other intrepid reporter have done the same, even as much as several years ago?

Yes, I just stumbled upon it. I was doing some research on Siegelman's request to be released pending his appeal and found the material in his brief. I then checked the Scrushy brief on the same issue, and it also said that Coody never ordered the Canary material. I then checked Coody's ruling, where he says he reviewed all documents requested by the defendants, and realized (as Scrushy's lawyers state) that "isn't consistent with the record."

I should have noticed this back in 2012 or '13. It's all right there in the public record. In my defense, I guess, these legal briefs are usually 40 to 80 pages long--filled with a lot of legal lingo--and it's easy to miss stuff. Plus, I think bar rules prohibit lawyers from bringing issues critical of judges to public attention via the press. It's up to reporters to find it ourselves, and sometimes we either miss it or just don't have the time to read every word of lengthy documents--in case that has generated probably several hundred documents..

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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