February 6, 2006, - 11:00 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
I commiserate greatly with the people of Enron who lost their pensions and everything for which they worked all their lives. But regardless of that and whether or not former Enron CEOs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling are guilty as charged, they deserve a fair trial like anyone else. They won’t get one, though.
That’s because Federal Judge Sim Lake has refused to dismiss Juror No. 11. Here’s how USA Today’s Greg Farrell, who is covering the trial, describes the voir dire (preliminary examination to determine competency to give or hear evidence) of the “impartial” Mr. 11, who is blatantly anti-business:
[A] man identified as Juror No. 11 works closely with an engineer who used to be at Enron. The juror also said businessmen who build companies and make lots of money were often driven by greed.
“I think anyone from Billy Sol Estes to T. Boone Pickens, it’s all greed,” the juror said, referring to two colorful Texans of earlier eras. Estes, an acquaintance of former president Lyndon B. Johnson, was convicted of fraud in 1962; Pickens is a successful oilman and corporate raider.
“All the way up. That’s pure greed. They’re trying to meet the bottom line, trying to meet their shareholders,” the juror said.
“Do you mean by greed that they’re committing some crime?” asked Judge Lake.
“I think they’re stretching the legal limits on it,” the juror said. “I’m not sure – I’m not going to say they’re all crooks, but you know …”
“Do you think anybody who is a CEO of a big company is probably a crook?” Lake continued.
“No, I didn’t say that . . . . I just said they walk a line that stretches sometimes the legality of something. They stretch points.”
Lay attorney Ramsey asked if the prospective juror felt his client was greedy. “Yeah, I think so,” he answered.
Later, Judge Lake asked the man if he might be inclined to believe that someone who is greedy must have done something illegal.
“No, not necessarily,” the prospective juror answered. “And I’m not sure – you know, they – they earned their salaries. I’m just – there’s a lot of stuff that goes on that we don’t know about – but, you know, that’s kind of an obscene thing, some of these bonuses and stuff that they get. So that’s just my opinion.”
When the questioning was over, Ramsey and Skilling attorney Petrocelli moved that Juror No. 11 be dropped. Judge Lake refused, saying: “No. I looked at him in the eye and I’ve heard all his questions, and the motion is denied.”
Justice is supposed to be blind, not the judge. But, apparently Judge Lake is the Helen Keller of the bench. (Please, no blind and deaf hate-mail.) Even Islamic terrorists get fairer treatment from the bench, and you can bet this man would have been excluded from the Sami Al-Arian jury.
It’s puzzling why high-priced defense attorneys Daniel Petrocelli and Mike Ramsey did not use peremptory challenges to strike this man from the jury. Maybe they are trying to create grounds for appeal.
If you think it’s nuts to care about the admitted, egregious bias of a juror in the Enron CEOs’ trial, think again. Lay and Skilling today, you tomorrow.
Judge Lake should say “buy-bye” to Juror No. 11. He already voted “guilty,” and the trial is yet to begin.
Tags: attorney, Billy Sol Estes, CEO, Daniel Petrocelli, Debbie Schlussel, engineer, Enron, Federal Judge Sim Lake, Greg Farrell, Jeff Skilling, judge, Judge Lake, Ken Lay, Ken Lay Deserves, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mike Ramsey, President, T. Boone Pickens, USA Today