Legal experts are split over how a witness's perjury charge will affect the Stewart case

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 24, 2004 03:00 PM

Since Friday’s revelation that a key prosecution witness against Martha Stewart has been charged with lying on the stand, legal experts have been divided about the possible fallout.

The domestic diva, 62, is still due to be sentenced June 17 for her conviction on lying to federal investigators looking into a questionable stock sale.

But Friday’s news that Secret Service ink expert Larry Stewart (no relation to Martha) allegedly lied on the witness stand is being viewed as probably more beneficial to Stewart’s codefendant, former stockbroker Peter Bacanovic, than to her, attorney and Court TV commentator Edward Hayes tells the Associated Press.

Larry Stewart is charged with perjury after testifying that he participated in the original examination of Bacanovic’s worksheet and the testing of the ink used to make the “@60” notation. Prosecutors argued that the stockbroker altered a worksheet to look as if he and Martha Stewart had a pre-existing agreement to sell the stock should it fall below $60.

“It’s a substantial issue, and she had no other substantial issues for an appeal,” argues Hayes.

Fellow defense attorney Timothy M. Donohue concurs, but points out: “The prosecution indicted their own witness. But the question is, ‘How does that apply to her?'”

CNN, on the other hand, gives Martha a fighting chance at having another trial, based on opinions by two former prosecutors and a defense attorney.

One of them, Tai Park, a former federal prosecutor who practices at Shearman & Sterling in New York, told the financial news cable network: “There’s going to have to be a retrial.”

Indeed, lawyers for Stewart and Bacanovic indicated immediately after Larry Stewart’s perjury charges were announced that they would seek a retrial.