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Death=innocence

When is a criminal conviction not a criminal conviction?
 
 
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Enron's Ken Lay, recently convicted of lying and defrauding investors and employees, died of a heart attack at his vacation home in Aspen, Colorado this morning. Peter G. over at TalkLeft, pointed out this key fact about Ken Lay's death:

[W]hen a defendant in a federal criminal case dies prior to sentencing, the entire prosecution process "abates" -- all the way back to the beginning. The indictment will be dismissed; Lay will be deemed to have died without a conviction and without a criminal record.

Lay was due to be sentenced in October. I'm all for forgiving in death and while I expect this may bring some comfort to his family, it's hard to forget it will also make it more difficult for the thousands of broke ex-Enron workers if they try to sue his estate to recover lost pensions or other lost wages. It's unclear whether the government will continue to pursue a 43 million dollar lawsuit against Lay and Skilling or whether civil cases will be allowed to go forward.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.