The Marketplace Report: Prosecutors Rest Enron Case The prosecution has rested in the fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Madeleine Brand talks to Tess Vigeland of Marketplace about the final week of prosecution arguments, and the highly anticipated testimony of Lay and Skilling -- they're expected to testify in their own defense when the trial resumes next week.
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The Marketplace Report: Prosecutors Rest Enron Case

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The Marketplace Report: Prosecutors Rest Enron Case

Law

The Marketplace Report: Prosecutors Rest Enron Case

The Marketplace Report: Prosecutors Rest Enron Case

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The prosecution has rested in the fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Madeleine Brand talks to Tess Vigeland of Marketplace about the final week of prosecution arguments, and the highly anticipated testimony of Lay and Skilling — they're expected to testify in their own defense when the trial resumes next week.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

It's taken several weeks, but in Houston, Enron prosecutors have concluded their case, now, into one of the biggest corporate scandal trials of recent years. The defense is expected to begin on Monday. MARKETPLACE's Tess Vigeland is here with us. Tess, how did the Enron prosecutors do with the government side of this?

TESS VIGELAND reporting:

Well, I spoke with some folks who've been watching the trial very closely and say the government has done about as well as they could, under the circumstances. And when we say under the circumstances, legal observers had warned, even before the case started, that it was going to be a tough one.

I spoke today with former Federal Prosecutor, Robert Mintz, and he says while there wasn't something really to kind of make the jurors say oh, no doubt, they're guilty--the government laid out a pretty convincing case.

Mr. ROBERT MINTZ (Former Federal Prosecutor): This is a case that had no bombshell evidence. This is really a case where the jurors have to listen to all the evidence and try to determine whether these defendants knowingly deceived the public about the true finances at Enron.

VIGELAND: And he says this prosecution did manage to avoid some of the pitfalls of other recent corporate trials, where jurors had to kind of sit and listen to hours of very boring testimony about arcane accounting rules

CHADWICK: Weren't the witnesses a big part of this? I mean, the former CFO, Andrew Fastow, testifying against Ken Lay. What happened?

VIGELAND: Well, Mintz says that the government was very strategic about this in not making any single witness in this case critical to gaining a conviction. They're not asking the jury to base the entire case on the shoulders of what Fastow said, or what the former treasurer, Ben Gleason, said, or the whistleblower, Sharon Watkins.

The jury heard all of them telling, essentially, the same story. So, if they discount even one of those folks, perhaps because they kept hearing the same story, that will help the prosecution's case. But the defense did ask these same people over and over, did Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling tell you outright to commit fraud, and the answer was always no. And that's where this is really more about a big portrait of wrongdoing than, as you said, a bombshell.

CHADWICK: Okay, well, the defense starts next week?

VIGELAND: Mm-hmm. We are expecting Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling to take the stand in their own defense, and we've seen a previous corporate trials, that that's a pretty risky strategy. You'll remember Martha Stewart, Bernie Ebbers at WorldCom--those both backfired. But Mintz says we will continue to hear the theme that the defense attorneys laid out at the start of the trial.

Mr. MINTZ: That Enron was essentially a sound company that was brought down by a combination of Andy Fastow's greed, a slumping economy, and the bad publicity that was generated by Fastow's actions that ultimately undermined investor confidence.

VIGELAND: And, by the way, the judge yesterday agreed with a government request to drop some of the criminal counts against Lay and Skilling, and that's really part of its effort to streamline the case.

And today on MARKETPLACE, we're looking at the new fuel economy standards.

CHADWICK: All right, good, thank you. Tess Vigeland of public radio's daily business show, MARKETPLACE, produced by American Public Media.

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