[JURIST] Jury deliberations in the trial of former Enron [JURIST news archive] executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling [Houston Chronicle profiles] began Wednesday after government prosecutors and defense lawyers finished closing arguments. Lay and Skilling have been charged [indictment, PDF] with multiple counts of fraud and criminal conspiracy for providing investors with false and misleading financial information from 1999 up until Enron filed bankruptcy in late 2001. Skilling and Lay face prison sentences of at least 25 years if convicted on all charges.
During closing arguments, the prosecution addressed claims by the defense that the prosecution had pressured Enron executives [JURIST report] into pleading guilty to false criminal complaints so they would testify against Skilling and Lay, and that the prosecution had no hard evidence against the pair. The prosecution emphasized the credibility of its witnesses who testified that Lay, Skilling and former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow used off-the-books partnerships and secret side deals to inflate Enron stock, thereby creating a windfall for themselves by selling the stock before the price collapsed in 2001. The government also attacked the defense for what it said was an attempt to characterize the off-the-book partnerships to inflate stock prices as "business as usual." Defense lawyers, on the other had, accused the prosecution of forcing false testimony [Chronicle report] and relying on prejudice against Enron to win the case. Bloomberg has more.