February 6, 2006, - 11:00 pm

Justice?: Enron’s Ken Lay Deserves a Fair Trial, Too

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.

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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.

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6 Responses

They didn’t use a peremptory challenge against this guy!!!!? What are they thinking?
Was the venire panel so bad that they had to use all of the peremptory challenges on other people? This seems insane to me.

Sue Bob on February 7, 2006 at 5:04 pm

Debbie, this is really weird as usually it’s the attorneys that question the witnesses. It’s also possible that the Enron attorneys are already looking for legal points that could be used to overturn a conviction in an appelate court.

czekmark` on February 7, 2006 at 7:38 pm

Is this another clown judge looking for a TV courtroom gig?

Bachbone on February 7, 2006 at 9:20 pm

Heck, we wouldn’t want the bush-abramoff-lay connections to get out. This trial better be made partisan and finger-pointing in order to ensure our benefactors aren’t outted.

arty on February 8, 2006 at 5:44 am

I think he deserves two trials-and one of ‘em should be very unfair.That’s been my opinion since seeing the documentary-‘Enron-The Smartest
Guys In The Room’.

jaywilton on February 8, 2006 at 10:08 am

    That’s really thnnkiig at a high level

    Amber on May 24, 2014 at 10:59 pm

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