Enron's Kenneth Lay Asks to Forgo Jury Trial

Update 8-12-04: According to a Washington Post reporter, a judge denied a September 14th trial start date and said that he would wait until additional motions were filed late in September or October. Seeking to put his fate in the hands of a judge rather than a jury, former Enron Corp Chairman Kenneth Lay asked that his trial begin on September 14 and that it be separated from the trials of his codefendants Jeffrey Skilling and Richard Causey, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The proposal by the Lay camp for a trial without a jury "likely reflects a higher level of confidence in the ability of an experienced judge rather than a jury to filter out the atmospherics surrounding Ken Lay," Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor and enforcement attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission, told the Journal.

The request to forgo a jury trial was included in motions filed Tuesday in Houston federal court by Lay's attorneys. Lay was charged with conspiracy and fraud last month in an 11-count indictment.

The filings included the request to separate Lay's trial from Skilling, former Enron President, and Causey, former Enron chief accountant, both of whom face more extensive charges. Yesterday, Causey requested a March 2006 trial date, the same date proposed by Skilling, but attorneys for both suggested that setting a trial date may be premature, the Journal reported.

The Justice Department, in a separate filing Tuesday, proposed trying the three men together in March 2005. Such a date would give Messrs. Skilling and Causey several more months to prepare, "while not unduly delaying Lay's trial," the filing said. The government estimated it would need about 10 weeks to present its case, the Journal reported.

Lay's lead defense attorney Michael Ramsey said he would be fine with a jury trial, provided his client can get an early trial date. However, Ramsey expressed concern with the ability to seat an impartial jury given the enormous amount of publicity the Enron case has received.

Lay's attorneys one again took aim at the charges themselves in this week's filings, saying Lay was accused of "minor, collateral and tissue thin offenses." They also argued that he had been added to an existing indictment against Messrs. Skilling and Causey "as a trophy defendant."

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