AUSWR
The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Winnowing of jurors begins
By Greg Griffin, Staff Writer 
Denver Post 
Monday, March 19, 2007

A blue-collar, predominantly male jury could be most likely to convict former Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio of insider trading.

That's one line of thinking, at least, as jury selection begins today in Nacchio's trial on 42 criminal counts.

Dozens of Colorado citizens will arrive at the federal courthouse in downtown Denver this morning with jury summonses for Nacchio's trial.

Twelve will be chosen to determine Nacchio's fate.  Six will serve as alternates during the trial, which is expected to last six to eight weeks.  They could be called on to join the jury if a juror cannot complete the trial and deliberations.

If the jury chooses to convict Nacchio, he could go to jail for life, though a maximum of 10 years is more likely.

"It's huge.  Critical decisions as a lawyer in jury selection can really affect your case," said former federal prosecutor Tony Leffert, a lawyer with Robinson, Waters & O'Dorisio in Denver.  "It's an art, not a science."

Selection is expected to take one or two days but could take longer if the judge and attorneys are unable to seat enough impartial jurors for the well-publicized case.

All involved are looking for jurors who have little or no bias for or against Nacchio and have no ties to the company or parties in the case.  Closely watched will be whether news coverage of Nacchio has affected their view of the case.

Leffert and another former federal prosecutor said the prosecution probably will favor working-class jurors while the defense will look for professional-class individuals.

Working-class jurors are more likely to be offended by Nacchio's nine-figure earnings on Qwest stock sales, they said.  Jurors with college degrees may better appreciate the high-priced market for executive talent and the risks that entrepreneurial leaders face.

The government also may prefer men over women, Leffert said.

"As a general rule, men tend to be more judgmental, more likely to vote for conviction," he said.  "Women are more likely to sympathize with the defense."

But generalizations only go so far.  A female engineer or military veteran might be an ideal juror in the prosecution's mind.  And both sides may have an interest in finding bright jurors who can understand the evidence presented and question what they're being told by the other side.

"The defense wants someone who won't swallow everything the government says whole cloth," said Denver attorney Rick Kornfeld.  "The government is going to want smart people also, in the sense that they're going to need people who can work through their theory."

Attorneys for both sides have submitted juror questions to the court, and they've reviewed potential jurors' answers to a questionnaire mailed weeks ago.  But they probably won't have direct contact with the jurors during selection.

U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham will conduct the questioning and confer with attorneys to determine which should be dismissed.

Each side will be given a certain number of challenges -- typically five -- that they can use to excuse jurors without cause.  Jury selection will be complete when 18 jurors are seated.

Nottingham has indicated that he will closely guard the jurors' identities to avoid contact with media.

Staff writer Greg Griffin can be reached at 303-954-1241 or ggriffin@denverpost.com.

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Nacchio trial guide


Jury selection:  Begins today at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom A201 on the second floor of the Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse, 19th and Champa streets, Denver.  Courtroom open for seating 15 to 30 minutes before the start of court.  As many as 18 jurors and alternates will come from a pool of 1,000 randomly selected Coloradans from the Front Range, central mountains and Eastern Plains.

Rules:  No cameras or sound recording devices in the courthouse.  Phone use is prohibited in the courtroom.  Only credentialed reporters may use laptop computers for note-taking, PDAs or cellphones for text messaging.

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The Nacchio barometer


After Qwest completed its takeover of US West, Ray Gifford, then Colorado's top utilities regulator, received a call from Nacchio's representative.  They set up a meeting, which Gifford thought would be a standard introductory courtesy call.

"He brought so many people with him that we had to move the meeting from my office to a big conference room.  It wasn't so much a conversation as Joe telling you what he was going to do and what Qwest's plans were," Gifford said.

Nacchio would sign off on million-dollar ad campaigns without consulting his marketing director, a reflection of his brash personality, according to former Qwest ad consultant George Parker.

"When you're dealing with regular client structures, you have to go through the marketing director, the advertising director, everybody wants their piece.  With Joe, it was direct conduit into him.  He was really great," Parker said.

Denver telecom analyst Tom Friedberg of Monarch Bay Associates recalls driving Nacchio to meet with Invesco fund managers in 1997.

"The first thing he did was rag on my vehicle, which was an older-model luxury car.  It was in a kidding way," Friedberg said.  "He knew the fast way out of the Qwest parking lot, and when we were on the highway, he said, 'Tom, you can use the diamond lane.'  He was a man on a mission.  A man in a hurry."

At a University of Colorado-Boulder symposium on the telecommunications industry in 2002, an embattled Nacchio still stole the spotlight with his self-assuredness and bold vision, said Phil Weiser, a professor of law and telecommunications there.

"He really was a bull in the china shop," Weiser said.  "He showed some real contempt for the legacy culture of US West.  He was of the view that he could really shake up this stodgy Baby Bell.  He did have some very forward-looking ideas, but he also really made a lot of enemies by how he treated people."

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_5467280