R. Allen Stanford’s defense lawyers, and the U.S. prosecutors who say he masterminded a $7 billion international fraud scheme, are set to make their final attempts to sway a federal court jury.
Closing arguments in the five-week trial are scheduled to be delivered today at the U.S. courthouse in Houston.
Stanford’s attorneys told U.S. District Judge David Hittner on Feb. 27 that their client wouldn’t testify in his defense, resting their case and settling an issue Hittner raised repeatedly over several days as the evidentiary portion of the trial neared its end.
“The defendant is presumed by law to be innocent,” Hittner told the jurors today as he read the instructions they’re to follow during deliberations. “The defendant in a criminal case has an absolute right under our Constitution not to testify.”
Each side has been allotted two hours for summations. For prosecutors it’s a final chance to claim they proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the financier lied to investors about what he was doing with money they gave to his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd. in exchange for its certificates of deposit.
For Stanford’s lawyers, it is a last chance to sow doubt in the mind of one or more of the dozen jurors whose unanimous verdict is required for a conviction.
Stanford, 61, faces 14 criminal counts, including charges of mail fraud and wire fraud that carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison, obstruction of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and conspiring to commit each of those crimes.
Stanford, indicted in June 2009 and jailed since then as a flight risk, has maintained he is innocent.
He entered the courtroom today wearing a double-breasted navy blue suit, a light blue shirt and, for the first time at trial, a necktie. Stanford sat at the defense table watching the jurors as Hittner read his instructions.
During the trial, defense attorney Robert Scardino and co-counsel Ali Fazel contended their client held sufficient assets to honor his investor obligations and that any wrongdoing was the fault of Stanford’s finance chief and one-time Baylor University roommate, James M. Davis.
Davis, who pleaded guilty to fraud and to conspiracy to commit fraud in August 2009, testified for the prosecution for five days. The trial began on Jan. 23.
The case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09cr342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).