Wed, May 10, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Enron case rests, deliberations next

AFP , HOUSTON, TEXAS

Enron founder Kenneth Lay speaks to the media as his attorney Mike Ramsey stands in the background outside the courthouse at the end of the testimony phase of his fraud and conspiracy trial on Monday in Houston.

PHOTO: AP

The prosecution and defense rested their cases on Monday in the trial of former Enron executives Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay after 14 weeks of intense questioning of the key figures in one of the biggest collapses in corporate history.

The court adjourned and closing arguments will be heard next week before the jury starts its deliberations in what is also one of the most complex criminal cases in US legal history.

Defense lawyers again claimed that several witnesses who could have cleared Enron founder Lay and Skilling, who later became chief executive in his place, refused to testify for fear of being prosecuted.

"We didn't get a chance to call all the witnesses or get all the facts on the table," said Skilling's lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli.

The defense case relies mostly on the testimony of Skilling and Lay who blamed Enron's implosion under an estimated US$40 billion of debt on the firm's former chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow.

Fastow was the prosecution's star witness.

He said his former bosses were complicit in hiding Enron's financial disaster in partnerships that were not properly registered.

Fastow said Skilling ordered him to get him "as much of that juice as you can," referring to the revenue generated by the off balance sheet partnerships.

Fastow's testimony demonstrated a contrition that Skilling and Lay did not show while on the stand. They betrayed little regret or overt sympathy for the thousands of employees who lost their jobs and life savings when the energy giant declared bankruptcy in 2001.

Skilling and Lay steadfastly maintained that the company was fiscally sound and all its accounting was legal.

Lay blamed the collapse of his energy company on "vultures" who sold the company stock short and "vicious" articles in the Wall Street Journal.

A parade of prosecution wit-nesses supported Fastow's version of events.

Lay's lead defense attorney, Mike Ramsey, returned to the court on Monday despite having emergency heart surgery last month.

Lay chose to continue with the trial even without Ramsey, who said he would participate in closing arguments.

Legal analysts have speculated that Ramsey might have more effectively controlled his client during questioning.

Known for his temper and stinging rebukes, Skilling was expected to lose his cool on the stand, not Lay.

However, Skilling maintained his equilibrium while Lay, came off as irascible and haughty.

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