Akin Gump Wins Appeal of Governor Symington’s Case

(Washington, D.C.) - On June 22, 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued a decision reversing the conviction of former Arizona Governor Fife Symington. Mr. Symington had been convicted on six of 23 counts of an indictment charging him with submitting false financial statements to banks and other lenders when he was a real estate developer, prior to his election as governor in 1991. Akin Gump partners John M. Dowd, Terence J. Lynam and Luis R. Mejia represented Governor Symington at his 17-week trial in Phoenix in 1997 and on his appeal to the Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The appellate court agreed with Mr. Symington’s contention that his constitutional right to a jury trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment was violated when the trial court dismissed one of the jurors during jury deliberations. The juror was dismissed at the request of the government after other jurors complained about her participation in deliberations. Mr. Symington’s attorneys objected to the dismissal and claimed that the other jurors were simply expressing frustration because, after a lengthy trial, they found that they now had disagreements over the evidence with the juror in question. Nevertheless, the trial court dismissed the juror. Defense counsel then moved for a mistrial and later obtained an affidavit from the juror stating that she would have voted not guilty on all counts.

On appeal, Akin Gump lawyers urged the Court of Appeals to adopt a standard that prohibited jurors from being dismissed if there is any possibility that the complaints of fellow jurors stemmed from disagreements over the evidence. In its opinion, the Court adopted this standard and found it was violated in Mr. Symington’s case. All six counts of conviction were overturned and remanded for a new trial. Furthermore, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of 12 other counts on grounds of either insufficient evidence or lack of a speedy trial. As a result, any new trial that the government may elect to pursue will be substantially reduced in scope from the original 23 counts.

The Symington trial and appeal were handled by attorneys in the firm’s white collar criminal defense practice group, who have extensive experience in both criminal trials and appellate litigation. In addition to Messrs. Dowd, Lynam and Mejia, associates Amy E. Overton and Andrea T. Vavonese provided assistance on the Symington case.

9th Circuit Opinion, U.S. v. Symington

The Washington Post

Founded in 1945, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P., a leading international law firm, numbers 850 lawyers with offices in Austin, Brussels, Dallas, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, New York, Philadelphia, Riyadh (affiliate), San Antonio and Washington. The firm has a diversified practice and represents regional, national and international clients in a wide range of areas, including antitrust; banking and financial institutions; bankruptcy, reorganization and creditors’ rights; capital markets; communications; corporate and securities; employee benefits; energy; entertainment; environmental; estate planning and probate; food and drug; government contracts; health; insurance; intellectual property; international; investment management; labor and employment; litigation; mergers and acquisitions; privatization; project finance; public law and policy; real estate and finance; taxation; and technology. For additional information, please visit our Web site at http://www.akingump.com.