In a partial victory for former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a full federal appeals court agreed Thursday to take up her challenge to a conviction on fraud and tax charges in a charity scam.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a January decision by a three-judge panel that upheld the Jacksonville Democrat’s conviction and agreed to rehear the case as a full court, a move known as holding an “en banc” hearing.
The Atlanta-based appeals court did not explain its reasons Thursday, but the three-judge panel was divided in January on whether the conviction should be withheld. Chief Judge William Pryor wrote a scathing dissent to the 2-1 decision, and Brown’s attorneys subsequently asked the full court to take up the case.
Bill Kent, Brown’s attorney, told News4Jax they’re very excited about the rehearing and they’re looking forward to arguing their case before the full court.
The appeal centers on a decision by U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan to replace a juror during Brown’s 2017 trial. Corrigan’s decision came after the juror said the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty. The juror was replaced by an alternate, and Brown was ultimately convicted on 18 felony counts and sentenced to prison.
In a 30-page brief filed after the three-judge appellate panel upheld the conviction Jan. 9, Brown’s attorneys pointed to a tough legal standard for dismissing jurors during trial deliberations. The brief said the three-judge panel “erred by employing an overly deferential standard of review that, as a result, effectively determines that groups believing in the Holy Spirit’s guidance, such as evangelical Christians, are incapable of serving on a jury.”
“Ultimately, both the district court (Corrigan) and the panel mischaracterize prayer as an external influence rather than an internal experience,” the brief said. “For a Christian, saying ‘I trust the Holy Spirit’ is roughly equivalent to saying ‘I trust my gut.’ Such a belief is consistent with evaluating the evidence — it is not inherently disqualifying. The record below provides ample evidence reasonably supporting the possibility that Juror 13 (the dismissed juror) referred to prayer in this way.”
Brown, now 73, was released from prison in April after serving nearly half of her five-year sentence because of coronavirus concerns. She was convicted on fraud and tax charges related to her role in using contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses and events. In a court document, Corrigan said the charity, which was originally established to help children, was “operated as a criminal enterprise” by the 12-term congresswoman, her longtime chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, and the charity’s founder, Carla Wiley.
But in fighting the conviction, Brown’s attorneys have cited the dismissal of the juror and raised the prospect of religious discrimination.
In the January panel decision upholding the conviction, appellate Judge Robin Rosenbaum focused heavily on a question of whether the dismissed juror could have decided the case based on …read more
Source:: Headlines News4jax
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