Bad Man Could Get Screwed By Bad Law

Legal experts are suggesting that Conrad Black might spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted on four charges of fraud and obstruction. Why? "Acquitted conduct sentencing enhancement," the result of a 1997 ruling by the Supreme Court that allows prosecutors to "show on a 'preponderance of the evidence' that Lord Black engaged in illegal conduct that it could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The preponderance of the evidence... test is the much lower standard of proof used in civil trials and means that something is more likely true than not." We're not at all fans of Black, but we've got to side with Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote in his dissent from the ruling, "The notion that a charge that cannot be sustained by proof beyond a reasonable doubt may give rise to the same punishment as if it had been so proved is repugnant."

Meanwhile, the inevitable appeal moves forward. Black's defense attorneys are examining a conversation between jurors that occurred "during deliberations, [when] a juror told her colleagues that she had been told some foreign press suggested the jury was too stupid to understand the complex case." If they can prove that the statement had a "prejudicial impact," it might help the disgraced Canadian fraudster. Wherever Black waits out the appeal process—possibly in Canada, probably in Chicago—the odds are good that he'll be wearing an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor his movement. Even better odds: Lady Black will demand a similar bracelet, but encrusted with diamonds.

Finally, in the "insult to injury" department, the Guardian claims that Black wasn't even as good at being an evil media tycoon as the late Robert Maxwell. Well, there's still time for a fishing trip, right?