Enron Trial: Closing Arguments

The 'grand finale' in the Enron trial starts today. Federal prosecutors will kick off closing arguments followed by the defense tomorrow. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports.

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Prosecutors and defense attorneys will summarize the 15 weeks of testimony from their different points of view. Former federal prosecutor Chris Bebel explains they will try to tie together the pieces of testimony from witnesses.

"By showing the jurors how one witnesses testimony buttresses the other witnesses testimony and that those statements are further statements are further corroborated by testimony by still other witnesses."

The defense is likely to argue the witnesses are not to be trusted because of deals reached with the government. Another key part of this week will be the jury instructions. The judge explains to the jury the law and on what grounds they are to base their verdict. Both the prosecution and defense have asked for different elements to be included in those instructions. The prosecution requested a 'deliberate ignorance' instruction. South Texas College of Law Gershowitz says the jury could return a guilty verdict and they believe the defendants purposely decided not to ask about things they knew to be troubling at Enron.

"It's sort of like the idea of being handed a package, asking some one to deliver it, telling them you give them a tremendous amount of money to do a simple delivery. And the person sort of, probably should have been suspicious that there was something in the package, but never asked, because deep down they knew there was something wrong with it, but didn't want to ask because they could sort of have plausible deniability by not asking."

It's seen as a controversial instruction and the defense fought to keep it out.

"They're belief and the belief of most people is it lowers the standard of proof, it lowers the level of intent, and it makes it look like they could be found guilty for being negligent rather than for actually having the intent to commit a conspiracy or a fraud."

Gershowitz says it could be grounds for the defense to appeal. The defense asked the judge to include the reliance defense. Gershowitz explains the line of thought for the defendants.

"In relying on professional accountants and very good law firms and very competent people that I have on staff, how could I be committing a criminal fraud and a criminal conspiracy when all I'm doing is relying on the expertise of these professionals."

Another area of question is what the defense will be able to tell the jury about 'missing witnesses' ... that is, those people who wouldn't testify for the defense because the prosecution wouldn't grant them immunity.

While the jury is deliberating, a second trial begins involving Enron founder Ken Lay. He faces four counts of bank fraud and making false statements to banks. The judge will hear that case and announce a verdict after the jury comes back in the conspiracy and fraud case. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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