Risk & Compliance

Enron Defense Closes Defiantly

Skilling attorney Daniel Petrocelli goes so far as to assert that a number of the prosecution's witnesses were ''robbed of their free will.''
Stephen TaubMay 16, 2006

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Daniel Petrocelli urged the jury to find Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling not guilty on all counts, insisting during closing arguments Tuesday that the government failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, according to published reports.

The lead attorney for Skilling, Petrocelli was scheduled to be followed in closing arguments by four attorneys for Lay: Bruce Collins, George “Mac” Secrest, Chip Lewis, and Mike Ramsey. Judge Sim Lake allotted the two defense teams a total of six hours to complete their closing arguments; jurors are expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday.

Petrocelli accused the prosecution of using coerced witnesses, gross misinterpretations of events, and out-of-context documents to make their case, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, he went so far as to assert that a number of the prosecution’s witnesses were “robbed of their free will,” suggesting they were eager to tell the government what it wanted to hear, reported the Associated Press.

“They know what needs to be said to make this work, get through it, get out of that courtroom and get home and move on with their lives,” Petrocelli reportedly told jurors, referring to former Enron executives who agreed to testify after striking plea deals with the government.

“Look into his eyes,” Petrocelli reportedly said of his client, Skilling. “Look into his soul. See if you see a criminal. See if you see a man with criminal intent.”

Petrocelli also asserted that hours of videotaped meetings and Enron business documents were the “real” evidence in the trial and undermined the government’s case, according to the Journal. “There’s an expression: Documents don’t lie but people do,” he reportedly argued. “You’re being asked to convict two people by having to ignore, disregard all of that real evidence as if it didn’t exist.”

He also urged the jury that if they have any doubt about the charges, they should acquit him. “Don’t compromise in there,” he implored. “Don’t negotiate with his life. Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, 28 times.”

For his part, Lay attorney Bruce Collins told jurors that his client “has accepted full responsibility — he was the CEO — for his actions,” reported the Houston Chronicle. Collins also reportedly told the panel that “90 percent of [Lay’s] net worth evaporated,” adding, “Don’t let anyone tell you that he didn’t go down with the ship. He did.”

“The most important takeaway” that Collins had for the jury, observed the Chronicle, “is do not assume, do not assume, the collapse means fraud.”

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