Lay, Skilling arrive in Houston courtroom

Jan. 30, 2006 at 12:14 PM
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HOUSTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The two top defendants in the U.S. government's fraud case against Enron Corp. arrived in a Houston courtroom Monday as jury selection began.

Enron founder Kenneth Lay, 63, and former president Jeffrey Skilling, 52, faced potential jurors in what U.S. District Judge Simeon T. Lake III said he intended to be a one-day jury selection, the New York Times said.

Skilling is charged with 31 counts of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading in Enron's collapse in December 2001. Lay is charged with seven counts of fraud and conspiracy. Together the pair is expected to spend about $20 million defending themselves.

The trial is expected to stretch well into the spring, if not summer, observers said, and feature an unusually high number of legal and factual issues for jurors, a challenge for federal prosecutors.

"If the government cannot explain why what happened at Enron was wrong in terms 12 lay people can understand, then the government will likely fail to obtain convictions," said Ross Albert, a former prosecutor.

Enron collapsed in December 2001, losing about $68 billion in market value and costing 4,000 people their jobs.

Enron's former top financial officer, who has pleaded guilty to related charges, will be the prosecution's top witness.

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