I guess I hadn't been following the recent Enron goings-on all that closely, because I was unaware that Lea Fastow's lawyers had petitioned for a change of venue, a request that the judge will rule on shortly. I knew they'd been working on delaying her trial until after her husband's, a move that failed awhile back. The reason for the change-of-venue request: too many people in Houston, amazingly enough, have heard of Enron and have an opinion on it.
"We have no confidence in people who say they can set aside opinion. We want a jury that doesn't have opinions," said Mike DeGeurin, the lead attorney for Lea Fastow, who attended the hearing today. DeGeurin complained that the Houston community has been saturated with publicity, enormously effected and that even just the pictures of Lea Fastow in handcuffs the day of her May 1 arrest creates undue prejudice.
He asked the judge to allow individual questioning of potential jurors by the lawyers and in the judge's chambers.
DeGeurin suggested Galveston, New Orleans or Austin as alternative settings if Hittner does not agree to extensive questioning of potential jurors.
DeGeurin said that a survey conducted in this federal district about Andrew Fastow showed that 84 percent of people in Houston had heard of his case, but only 54 percent had heard about it in Galveston.
Enron Task Force prosecutor Linda Lacewell agreed to questioning potential jurors but noted that the jury pool need not have ignored all the publicity about Enron.
Lacewell indicated the government does not think preset individual questioning would be necessary.
"A defendant, yes, is entitled to an impartial jury. But she is not entitled to an ignorant or uninformed jury," Lacewell said.