February 07, 2006
Enron trial: It's time to play Impeach The Witness!

The defense got its first crack at a prosecution witness yesterday, and it went about as you might expect.

Daniel Petrocelli, lead defense lawyer for former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, repeatedly asked [Mark] Koenig about his plea agreement with the government and if he ever confronted anyone else at the company about lies he earlier testified were told during analyst meetings and conference calls.

"You never said, 'Mr. Skilling, why are you spearheading a criminal conspiracy,' did you?" Petrocelli asked.

"No," Koenig replied.

"And you never saw a single e-mail or memo that said Mr. Skilling broke the law? Or Mr. Lay?" Petrocelli asked, referring to former Enron chairman Ken Lay, who is also on trial.

Koenig said he never read such a document and didn't know if one existed.

"You're still in a mode of trying to protect yourself, aren't you?" Petrocelli asked.

"I don't feel in the last three days I've protected myself," Koenig said, noting that he is still subject to shareholder lawsuits and will probably lose the $5 million in assets he still owns. He forfeited $1.5 million to the government last year.

Admit it: You could imagine this exact dialogue on almost any episode of Law & Order. The names and crimes may change, but the dynamic - "Why should we believe you when you've already told us you're a crook and you took a deal to save your sorry hide?" - is the same.

I think in the end, all the mind-numbing technical details aside, that's what this case will come down to. Who will the jurors believe, Koenig, Rice, Causey, and Fastow, or Skilling and Lay? Fastow is a huge wild card here. He has the potential to say the most damaging things, but he's also clearly the least honest person involved. As I said before, I think that's where this trial will get interesting. If the jurors can stay awake that long, we may be able to get a feel for how they're leaning after Fastow finishes.

That appears to be the view of Samuel Buell, a former Task Force member who's now joining in the Legal Commentary blog, and it's noted in this story about media indifference as well. Even we bloggers are apparently falling down on the job:

The much-ballyhooed blogosphere has barely weighed in on the opening of the trial.

The Truth Laid Bear, a Web log monitor, confirms that Enron cannot qualify as anything close to a hot topic, notwithstanding periodic mention by local blogs such as blogHouston, Houston's Clear Thinkers and Slampo's Place, the latter of which offered readers what may prove to be an appropriate invocation to a trial struggling to make its mark in the competitive world of current events:

"Friends, as we gather here today to pass judgment on these two once-glib sons of the Great Midwest, let us resolve to never, ever forget the bitter lesson of Enron. And the lesson of Enron is, of course ... is ... um wait, it'll come to us ... the lesson was ... hold on ... lessee ... lesson ... Enron ... uh ... ."

I guess my mentions weren't periodic enough. Well, I knew the risks when I went out of town this past weekend.

And finally, Tom gives a little context to Jeff Skilling's famous "asshole" comment. As always, it's good stuff.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 07, 2006 to Enronarama | TrackBack

I think Skilling's attorney, Daniel Petrocelli showed his lack of experience in having never tried a criminal case by asking Koeing about his children. His answer, after composing himself, that the hardest thing he had to do was telling his children but after that, there was nothing to fear. That's one question Mr. Petrocelli should have known not to ask. The jury now has respect for Mr. Koeing, at least as to that issue.


Posted by: richard burns on February 7, 2006 11:30 AM