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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2006

After 16 weeks, Enron case goes to jury

By Greg Farrell
USA Today

HOUSTON The fates of former Enron chief executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, defendants in an epic criminal trial destined to define an era of corporate fraud, are in the hands of 12 ordinary Texans now.

For 16 weeks, federal prosecutors and FBI agents, and high-priced defense attorneys and their teams, battled over the testimony of cooperating witnesses and squabbled over the admissibility of evidence. For the past three days, they've summed up the merits of their cases in closing arguments.

But all the talk from lawyers ended yesterday morning at 10:35, when prosecutor Sean Berkowitz summed up the government's case against the defendants with a simple maneuver.

Berkowitz pulled out a poster, which he displayed on an easel. On the one side, in big, capital letters, was the word, "TRUTH," and on the other, "LIES." After all the intricately detailed testimony that came before the jury about "dirty hedges," "goodwill write-downs," "monetizations" and "dark fiber sales," the black-and-white chart boiled it down to those two words.

"These men lied," he declared. "They withheld the truth. They put themselves ahead of the investors. I'm asking you to send them a message, that it's not all right. You can't buy justice. You have to earn it."

Skilling attorney Dan Petrocelli accused the prosecution of putting together a conspiracy worthy of Hollywood, forcing innocent Enron employees to plead guilty to crimes they didn't commit and making them testify against their former bosses.

Mike Ramsey, one of Lay's four lawyers, told jurors that if they had any hesitance at all about the government's case, they should acquit Lay.

The day ended without the jury reaching a verdict.