A Houston jury continues deliberating the fates of Enron’s Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling today. The Houston Chronicle says several lawyers who watched the 12 hours of final arguments said prosecutors and defense attorneys did an excellent job. Philip Hilder, attorney for witness Sherron Watkins, said, “Neither side imploded. So ultimately the case won’t rest on final arguments: It’ll rest on Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling and whether the jury believed them or not.” Lay and Skilling deny the charges and argue the government coerced witnesses into lying. The defendants maintain that Enron was in good shape but suffered from a crisis in confidence and a run on the bank.
Observers said it was telling that the defense attorneys for Skilling and Lay made pleas for a hung jury while also proclaiming their clients’ innocence. The way federal sentencing works, after two or three guilty verdicts, it won’t matter much how many more convictions there are. Skilling still would face the same approximate 12 to 25 years in prison as a likely maximum. Jurors could think they are doing Skilling a favor when only an acquittal will do that.