The fraud and conspiracy trial of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling resumes later this morning and Skilling is expected to begin his testimony today. He could be on the witness stand all this week and into next week. Houston Public Radio’s Rod Rice reviews last week’s proceedings with Houston Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy.
The week was not as dramatic as expected. The defense had hinted that Jeff Skilling could take the stand Wednesday or Thursday, but that didn’t happen. Loren Steffy says it looked as if the defense decided to slow things down about mid-week when it kept Enron’s former General Council Jim Derrick on the stand for two days.
“He didn’t have a lot of terribly gripping testimony, I mean, some of what he said was important to the defense, but I don’t know that all the detail he went into was really necessary. There was a lot of reading of documents and things like that; it’s something that lawyers do when they’re trying to affect the pace of the trial.”
Steffy says a couple of things stood out last week. First the defense began the week with Joannie Williamson, an assistant to Mark Koenig, Enron’s former head of investor relations. She testified she was shocked when Koenig said he was pleading guilty to aiding and abetting securities fraud. Steffy says the defense may have scored some points with her.
Later in the week, I believe it was Wednesday, we had testimony from Max Hendrick, who was the Vinson and Elkins partner who lead the investigation into the Sharreon Watkins memo. Hendrick actually came off as more of a prosecution witness. The more he talked the more obvious it became that the entire investigation into Watkin’s concerns was really never designed to find anything out.
All in all though, the week’s witnesses landed no heavy blows to the prosecution’s case.
But keep in mind when you’re putting on a defense it’s not the same thing as when you’re putting on a prosecution. The defense is going to chip away at bits and pieces of the prosecutions case and they will try to tie it all together in their closing argument. The way they put on the case may seem more disjointed, where as the prosecution was laying out a story, the defense is going to try to pick that story apart bit by bit.
Despite the hints that Skilling’s testimony could have begun last week, Loren Steffy says having his testimony begin this week is really back to the original timetable laid out by the defense. Steffy says as things are going the jury could get the case in early May.