AUSWR
The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Nacchio team gains access to juror surveys
Judge Edward Nottingham calls the request by attorneys for the convicted former Qwest chief executive "grasping at straws."
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Wednesday, May 22, 2007

A federal judge on Tuesday granted Joe Nacchio's request for disclosure of questionnaire responses from 1,000 prospective jurors in his illegal-insider-trading trial.

Attorneys for the former Qwest chief executive have indicated they want to review those questionnaires as part of their anticipated appeal of his conviction.

In granting the request, U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham lambasted Nacchio's attorneys for arguing that they were never told how the jury pool was winnowed from 1,000 to fewer than 100.

"Defendant has shown no diligence in pursuing the claim, and it is difficult for this court to regard his present motion as anything other than post-verdict grasping at straws," Nottingham wrote in the order.

Nacchio's Denver attorney John Richilano declined to comment Tuesday.

Nottingham cited two reasons for granting Nacchio's motion.

"First, as long as private and identifying (information) about prospective jurors is protected, neither the jurors nor the parties would be prejudiced by disclosure," Nottingham wrote.  "Second, and more important, the court believes that disclosure at this point might well facilitate and expedite appellate review and avoid possible piecemeal appeals."

In their request for the jury responses last month, Nacchio's attorneys wrote that the court's "pre-trial method for winnowing the venire from 1,000 to 78 may be (an) error that warrants the grant of a new trial."

The motion also stated that "over Mr. Nacchio's objection, the court sent out only a single, very limited, questionnaire to 1,000 potential jurors" with the intention of excluding any prospective juror who had a prior employment, business or financial relationship with Qwest.

In his 16-page order Tuesday, Nottingham said that "argument attempts to rewrite history."

Nottingham also went into detail about the process.  He sent potential jurors 13 questions, with 11 taken from the parties and two proposed by the court.  Initially, he wanted to rule out anyone who answered that they or a family member had owned US West/Qwest stock but later proposed to not eliminate those jurors because he was concerned there would be an insufficient number of "clean" jurors.

Nottingham also changed his mind about eliminating prospective jurors who said they had "ever done business" with Qwest/US West because many answered that question by indicating that they had phone service from the companies.

Nottingham said he discussed the first change with the parties but not the second.

Out of 1,000 summonses, 367 were returned undeliverable, 54 did not respond, 472 jurors were disqualified based on their responses, 24 weren't eliminated but required follow-up questions, and two responded after the trial had started.  That left 81 clean jurors, not 78, and 77 participated in jury selection March 19.

A status conference has been scheduled for May 31 to resolve pending issues.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or avuong@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_5962228