November 25, 2004
Gov’t Urges Upholding of Stewart Verdict
NEW YORK - The government urged a federal appeals court to uphold the conviction of Martha Stewart, arguing that "overwhelming evidence" supported the guilty verdict against the celebrity homemaker.
Stewart, serving a five-month sentence at a West Virginia prison, had argued to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that prosecutors improperly suggested at her trial that she was charged with insider trading.
She was charged with lying about why she sold ImClone Systems Inc. stock in 2001. Federal prosecutors, in a 220-page brief filed Wednesday evening with the appeals court, said they did not mislead the jury on the issue.
"The only party relentlessly seeking to introduce the subject of insider trading was Stewart, not to rebut anything the government (prosecution) was doing, but as part of a defense strategy," the prosecutors wrote.
The papers came one day after publicists for Stewart posted a Thanksgiving message from her on her Web site, saying she is "safe, fit and healthy" and being treated fairly at the federal women's prison in Alderson, W.Va.
The appeals court is unlikely to hear oral arguments in the case until early next year and probably will not rule on the appeal before Stewart leaves prison. She has said she is going through with the appeal to clear her name.
Legal experts have said it is unlikely the appeals court will overturn the conviction.
Lawyers for Stewart argued to the appeals court that they were unfairly barred from asking some questions to government witnesses, and from calling a law professor as an expert witness.
But prosecutors said the trial judge, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, was best equipped to determine what was relevant and what had the potential to confuse the jury.
"Judge Cedarbaum's decisions should not be disturbed," the prosecutors wrote.
In a statement, Stewart's lawyers said they continue to believe that errors at the trial "require that her conviction be reversed." They said they would file new papers with the appeals court in mid-December.
Prosecutors also objected to arguments by Stewart that her trial was tainted by alleged lies told on the stand by a government ink expert, and by a juror on his jury questionnaire.