Although Stewart’s defense lawyers presented compelling arguments in motion papers filed on Wednesday seeking a new trial, some experts doubted the juror’s behavior was significant enough to undo the jury’s verdict.
“Courts are loath to upset a verdict…absent evidence of serious misconduct,” said Mark Zauderer, a partner at Piper Rudnick (search).
“It’s an uphill battle for the defense,” agreed Gordon Greenberg, a partner at McDermott, Will & Emery (search).
The motion by Stewart’s defense lawyers concerned the actions of Chappell Hartridge, who was the first juror to speak to reporters after the jury convicted Stewart of lying to investigators over a suspicious stock sale.
Stewart’s lawyers argued that Hartridge lied on a jury questionnaire by failing to admit he had been arrested for assaulting a woman and that he had been sued several times.
The defense lawyers also said Hartridge’s public statements that the verdict was a victory for “the little guys” showed “class bias.” They said he also sought payment for his media interviews.
They described Hartridge as “a man with a checkered history, who deliberately concealed his prior experiences with the legal system so that he could empower the ‘little man’ and profit from the process.”
Hartridge could not be reached for comment.
Stewart, who built a media empire on tips for gracious living, was found guilty on March 5 of conspiring with her former Merrill Lynch stock broker to hide the reason behind her sale of shares in the biotech company ImClone Systems Inc. (IMCL) on Dec. 27, 2001.
While several lawyers said they did not believe Stewart would prevail in her motion, Andrew Schapiro, a white collar defense lawyer who specializes in appellate work at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw (search), said the celebrity homemaker had some hope.
While he agreed that it is rare for a judge to overturn a verdict and the odds were not necessarily in Stewart’s favor, Schapiro said her lawyers had found some case law to support their arguments.
“It’s ordinarily the longest of a long shot, but in this case her lawyers are on to something significant,” he said.