Martha Stewart's bid for a new trial was rejected Wednesday, as a judge ruled the domestic diva had been given a fair trial even though one of the jurors had concealed his arrest record.
U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum also rejected a similar motion for a new trial by Stewart's co-defendant, former stockbroker Peter Bacanovic.
Cedarbaum said in a 23-page ruling that juror Chappell Hartridge's concealment of a previous arrest for assault was "extremely unfortunate" but would not justify a new trial for Stewart, who was convicted of lying to federal investigators.
"A defendant who seeks a new trial based on allegations of juror misconduct faces a very high hurdle," Cederbaum wrote, holding that Hartridge's concealment of his arrest would not have justified removing him from jury selection.
Hartridge was the first juror to speak to reporters on March 5, immediately after Stewart was found guilty of conspiring with Bacanovic, her former Merrill Lynch stockbroker, to hide the reason behind her suspicious Dec. 27, 2001 sale of shares in the biotech company
Stewart's lawyers had argued that Hartridge's nondisclosure on his jury questionnaire, as well as his public statements after the trial saying that Stewart's conviction was a victory "for the little guy", showed that jury deliberations were unfair.
But Cedarbaum wrote that Hartridge's willingness to be interviewed in the days following the verdict does not support an inference that he was biased against defendants.
"Hartridge's failure to disclose his arrest did not relate to any bias against Stewart," offered criminal defense attorney Labe Richman, when asked to comment on the ruling. "In fact, it might have shown a bias against the government because he had been the subject of a prosecution."
Stewart attorney Robert Morvillo said he would continue to appeal the decision.
Since the March verdict, Stewart has stepped down from her position of CEO of
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.
, the media company she founded. Stewart was convicted of one count of conspiracy, two counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of agency proceedings. She is scheduled to be sentenced on June 17.