Does this outfit make me look guilty?
By Jeff Roberts and Basil Katz
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Winifred Jiau, who is at the center of a high-profile, insider-trading trial, has much in common with other white-collar defendants. The former expert-network consultant has the benefit of a high-powered legal team and a sophisticated defense strategy.
But as the second week of her trial begins in Manhattan federal court, there is one thing Jiau does not have: a fancy wardrobe.
For the remainder of a trial expected to last three weeks, Jiau's attire will consist of the following articles set out in an order by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff: "two suits, three blouses, and one pair of shoes."
Jiau's constrained closet came about because she is the unusual white-collar defendant to be held in custody during trial. In the expert-network cases similar to Jiau's, twelve other individuals have been charged. All of those defendants have made bail in recent months. Jiau, who is a Taiwanese citizen, was denied bail on the grounds that she was a flight risk. She is being held in federal jail in Manhattan.
The sartorial implications are not insignificant. Unlike the other expert-network defendants, Jiau will not have access to her own clothes, and the way she dresses for trial could affect how she is perceived by the jury.
To prevent defendants from having to appear in court in prison garb, the law permits them access to a handful of outside clothes. The allowance is routine and applies whether the defendant is male or female. Jiau will be alternating two brand new, dark-colored pantsuits from Banana Republic, according to her lawyer, Joanna Hendon, who noted that her client is a "perfect petite size 2."
Choice of clothes and colors can matter a lot for those whose liberty is at stake, according to Richard Gabriel, a trial consultant in Los Angeles, who is regularly asked to provide style advice.
"The jury is looking for all kinds of clues, especially if a defendant doesn't testify," said Gabriel. "Instead of white, use softer colors like light blues and hues. With ties, be less power-oriented."
Manhattan image consultant Erika Chloe agrees. She has been approached by Fortune 50 companies whose employees are being tried in court, and she advises that a defendant wear "happier colors" like yellows, oranges and reds.
Jiau so far has appeared in dark blue and black outfits, lightened somewhat by puce-colored spectacles with geometric patterns on the frames.
The nature of the accusations can also influence the choice of courtroom attire. Lawyers for accused terrorist Ahmed Ghailani said they decided to emphasize the boyish appearance of their client by dressing him in bright pastel sweaters, a tie and dress slacks, all from clothing chain Express. Ghailani was ultimately sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to bomb U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
In cases where a defendant has nothing to his name but a prison jumpsuit, lawyers and judges have been known to chip in. Federal defender Sabrina Shroff, who works in Manhattan, said she has spent money out of her own pocket. "Sometimes we even have to buy socks, but the most difficult are shoes," said Shroff. "I've kept every rich boyfriend's clothes so I can give them to my clients." Legendary federal judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn, is reported to keep extra ties in his closet to loan to defendants.
The executive Director of the New York federal defenders office, John Byrnes, said that he has seen one judge go even further -- helping a man who had never worn a tie put it on correctly.
(Editing by Eileen Daspin and Steve Orlofsky)