[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] has upheld a lower court order [PDF text] vacating the criminal conviction of the former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay [Houston Chronicle profile; JURIST news archive]. Lay died of a heart attack in July, six weeks after being convicted [JURIST reports] on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy [indictment, PDF]. Russell P. Butler, a former Enron shareholder who lost $8,000 when the company collapsed and filed the present appeal, has vowed to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
US District Judge Sim Lake of Houston vacated Lay's conviction [JURIST report] in October, citing a Fifth Circuit precedent [PDF opinion] that a defendant's death during a pending appeal nullified the guilty verdict because the defendant could not properly challenge the conviction. The decision meant that the US Justice Department could not seize property of the Lay estate to compensate victims of the 2001 Enron collapse despite a forfeiture order [PDF text] filed days before Lay's death. Instead, the DOJ is pursuing civil remedies [JURIST report] against Lay's estate. The Houston Chronicle has more.