Marketplace Report: Enron Conviction Disputed Lawyers for late Enron founder Kenneth Lay have asked a judge to erase his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges. They argue that his death ended their opportunity to appeal. If Lay's record is wiped clean, it could seriously complicate the federal government's attempts to seize the convicted executive's remaining assets.

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Marketplace Report: Enron Conviction Disputed

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY and a new development in the legal case of the late Ken Lay, the former Enron chairman. He died last month of heart disease before he could be sentenced for his convictions on fraud and conspiracy charges, and before he could appeal those convictions. MARKETPLACE's Amy Scott is with us. Amy, bring us up to date on what's happened.

AMY SCOTT reporting:

Well, Ken Lay's attorneys have asked a judge to throw out his conviction because he died before he had the chance to appeal. They've even gone so far as to say that technically, because the defendant is no longer living, the trial is - and I'm quoting the court document here - deemed not to have taken place.

CHADWICK: The trial didn't take place? So is this going to be a successful - we all saw the trial take place.

SCOTT: Right, exactly. Well, apparently it's - some are saying it's likely that these attorneys will be successful because federal law does allow the court to throw out a conviction if a defendant dies before exhausting all appeals. As you can imagine, that's not going to go over that well with former Enron employees.

But you know, I talked to Washington University law professor Sam Buell, who worked on this case at the Justice Department. He says even if the judge drops this conviction, it doesn't really change anything.

Professor SAM BUELL (Washington University): I would think that the victims should take solace in the fact that this didn't happen before the trial or during the trial. You know, they've got something very significant here, and that is the finding of a jury in a criminal trial where the burden of proof is very heavy, beyond a reasonable doubt. Under all those restrictions, a jury found him guilty, and nobody can really take that away.

SCOTT: Some legal experts are saying, though, that without a conviction the government could actually have a harder time seizing what remains of Ken Lay's assets, and prosecutors do plan to oppose this request.

CHADWICK: Well, what about this other prosecutor request, that Mr. Lay's co-defendant, Jeff Skilling, be required to cover Ken Lay's fines?

SCOTT: Right. Jeff Skilling, as you said, is Ken Lay's co-defendant and a former CEO of Enron. Prosecutors want him to pick up the more than $43 million Lay owed the government, which would bring Skilling's total to about $183 million. So lawyers are naturally fighting that. But again, that wouldn't be without precedent.

And coming up later today on MARKETPLACE, it's still possible to travel on the cheap. We'll tell you about the one dollar Megabus.

CHADWICK: Thank you, Amy. Amy Scott of Public Radio's daily business show MARKETPLACE, produced by American Public Media.

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