Lay wants different juries for his separate trials

/ Source: The Associated Press

Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay wants different juries for his two upcoming trials.

The legal team for the former head of the disgraced energy company told U.S. District Judge Sim Lake in a court filing Monday that they don't want the same jury that decides the outcome of the January fraud and conspiracy trial of Lay, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former top accountant Richard Causey to hear a separate case pending against Lay that involves personal banking charges.

Lake suggested using the same jury in the interest of efficiency last month when he set Jan. 17 as the trial date for the trio. That trial is to focus on the premiere criminal case to emerge from the Justice Department's lengthy investigation of Enron's December 2001 collapse.

Michael Ramsey, Lay's attorney, considered Lake's idea, but said in Monday's filing the use of the same panel would damage Lay's right to an impartial jury in the banking case.

Even if Lay is acquitted in the larger case, "there exists a substantial possibility that jurors will not be able to simply disregard all of that argument and evidence, and will use it — intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or subconsciously — to infer a propensity on the part of the defendant to commit the other offenses, similar in nature, upon which they are called to deliberate in the second trial," the filing said.

Lay can be ready for trial on the bank charges two months after the larger case ends so his lawyers won't have to prepare for both trials simultaneously, the filing said.

Lake made the suggestion in relation to Lay's speedy trial request still pending from August.

Lay's legal team also asked that Lay receive a trial separate from Skilling and Causey on all 11 charges pending against him as soon as possible. Lay also offered to forgo a jury and try the whole case against him directly to Lake if that would help gain a speedy trial.

Lake last year granted a separate trial on the bank charges — one count of bank fraud and three counts of lying to banks — but kept Lay lumped in with Skilling and Causey on seven other counts of conspiracy and fraud. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Lay on Monday withdrew the offer of a bench trial, noting that prosecutors' consistent silence on the issue makes it "pointless to consider it any further."

Andrew Weissmann, head of the Justice Department's Enron Task Force, declined comment.

Skilling and Causey were each indicted more than a year ago on more than 30 counts including conspiracy, fraud and insider trading for allegedly knowing about or being in on schemes to fool investors into believing Enron was financially healthy in the years leading to its crash. Lay was added to the indictment in July.

The conspiracy and fraud charges against Lay allege he took over the ruse upon Skilling's resignation in August 2001. The bank charges allege Lay misled banks when he used loans to buy Enron stock on margin.