When ex-Enron Chairman Ken Lay surrendered this morning on a federal indictment, photographers lined up to take his picture as he turned himself in to the FBI and as he was taken into the back door of the Houston federal courthouse in handcuffs, The public display is called the “perp walk.” The Houston Chronicle reports that until a number of large corporate failures, prosecutors were more willing to let certain defendants come to court on their own and not be seen in chains.
Defense attorneys call it an outrage. “There’s no real benefit to the public, no legal purpose. It’s just a throwback to the Puritan days, like public humiliation in the town square,” said Joel Androphy, a Houston defense lawyer. “Years ago you could get around this.” He did that in the mid-1990s for his client Teresa Rodriguez, a Houston businesswoman serving a 22-year prison sentence for cheating more than 300 investors out of $67 million. He heard when she might be indicted and sat with her in magistrate court so she could turn herself in when the indictment was presented in court. Now, officials say they are treating everyone equally. “Whether you are a rich guy or a corporate CEO is irrelevant,” said Houston’s U.S. attorney, Mike Shelby. “There are procedures, and there is no distinction for finances, wherewithal, which crime, color of skin, any of that.”