BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A sick juror in the corporate fraud case against fired HealthSouth Corp. (search) CEO Richard Scrushy (search) was excused as the trial resumed Monday following a weeklong break.
U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre did not identify the juror or elaborate on the illness. But the trial was delayed last week because the same woman was sick, she said.
The trial, which began Jan. 25 and could last through May, continued with 17 members on the jury panel, including five alternates who won't participate in deliberations once testimony ends.
As testimony resumed following time off for the Easter holiday, Scrushy attorney Jim Parkman began cross-examination of Weston Smith, the fifth former HealthSouth finance chief to testify that Scrushy was part of a scheme to overstate HealthSouth earnings.
In initial questioning, Parkman referred to a statement Smith gave the FBI days before agents raided HealthSouth headquarters in March 2003 and asked Smith if he ever told investigators he hadn't had any meetings with Scrushy to discuss the fraud.
"I'm positive I didn't say that," said Smith.
Parkman asked Smith whether he liked Scrushy.
"This trial is not about whether I like Richard Scrushy," Smith replied.
Parkman persisted, asking the question again.
"I do not like what he has done in the past," said Smith.
Parkman showed that Smith, however, once asked another former CFO, Bill Owens, to be the godfather of his children. The defense has portrayed Owens as the leader of the fraud, but Smith testified they are no longer friends.
"You're talking about ancient history, sir," Smith told Parkman.
The defense also has suggested Smith turned against Scrushy to save wife Susan Smith, who was a senior vice president of finance at HealthSouth. Testimony has indicated she may have met with people involved in the fraud but was not charged in the scheme.
Prosecutors argue that Scrushy directed a scheme to overstate earnings by $2.7 billion and made millions from the conspiracy through stock sales, bonuses and salary.
The defense claims subordinates committed the fraud on their own and lied to Scrushy to keep it secret.
Scrushy is charged with conspiracy, fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and perjury. He also is accused of false corporate reporting in the first case of a CEO being accused of violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (search), passed in 2002.
Scrushy could get what amounts to a life term and be ordered to pay fines up to $278 million in assets if convicted.