Enron Trial Jurors Hold Fate of Lay, Skilling

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The jury in the trial of former Enron executives Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay on fraud and corruption charges began deliberations Wednesday morning. The two face prison for their part in the collapse of what was once the dominant player in the energy trading market.


From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, is British Petroleum doing enough to clean up a recent Alaskan oil spill?

First, though, after nearly three long months of testimony, the Enron case has finally gone to the jury. Prosecutors spent the first part of today taking the jury through Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay's alleged crimes.

From the federal courthouse in Houston, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

WADE GOODWYN reporting:

Sean Berkowitz delivered a blistering attack on Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling's character this morning. He took the jury through Lay's statements to anxious Enron employees after Skilling abruptly left the company in August of 2001. Lay reassured employees that there was no other shoe to drop concerning the company's finances and that he, himself, was buying Enron stock.

But while Lay was buying Enron stock publicly, he was also selling many times more than he was buying, and doing so in a way that was not visible to the public.

Berkowitz's voice was full of indignation, let's look at August 20th, ladies and gentlemen. On August 20th, Mr. Lay bought $4 million in stock. But he secretly sold 120,000 shares back to the company. He chose to publicly say he was a buyer of Enron shares. Nobody made him say that.

Yesterday, defense lawyers made great fun of former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow, mocking the notion that he and Skilling had secret side agreements.

But today, Berkowitz wiped whatever smiles might have been left right off the defense's faces. There is overwhelming evidence of side deals, Berkowitz said. Fastow produced this list after he and his wife's plea agreements were already in place. These men were arrogant, ladies and gentlemen. And they decided what the market would see and what the market wouldn't see, what the market would hear and what the market wouldn't hear.

The case has now gone to the jury. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Houston.

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