Risk & Compliance

Houston, We Have a Trial

Lay and Skilling to appear in court on Monday; judge expects a jury to be chosen in one day.
Stephen TaubJanuary 24, 2006

The trial of former Enron Corp. executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling will stay put, in Houston, after U.S. District Judge Sim Lake denied a defense motion for a change of venue, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Skilling faces 35 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading, and lying to auditors; Lay faces 31 criminal counts. The trial itself is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Attorneys for Skilling and Lay reportedly argued that negative comments made by prospective jurors and the recent plea deal with former co-defendant Richard Causey suggested that the trial should be moved or, at least, that prospective jurors should be questioned individually.

Judge Lake reportedly said that enough safeguards are in place to screen for biased jurors.

About 400 questionnaires had been sent to potential jurors asking what they knew about the case and how they felt about the company and the defendants, noted the Chronicle; the judge dropped who appeared to be biased.

According to the Associated Press, a number of potential jurors called Skilling “a high-class crook” and “cheater” who “would lie to his mother if it would further his cause.” Some potential jurors reportedly called Lay “the biggest lying crook of all” who “did a lot of injustice to a lot of good people.”

After dismissing other prospective jurors for hardship reasons including being in college or caring for a child or sick relative, Judge Lake was left with roughly 150 people who must appear in court on Monday, according to the Chronicle.

The AP noted that Lake has repeatedly indicated he expects a jury to be chosen in one day.

On that basis, opening statements would begin next Tuesday. Prosecutors have been allotted two hours for their opening remarks while the combined defense teams have four hours, according to the AP.