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'Enron verdict based on facts, not emotions'

May 26, 2006 13:58 IST

The jury of eight women and four men whose verdict had sent shock waves through corporate boardrooms across the US said they could not believe former Enron Corp's Chairman Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey K Skilling were telling the truth when they claimed they didn't realise accounting improprieties at the company.

Jurors said they only looked at the facts and didn't let emotion enter into their decision to convict Enron executives Skilling and Lay on fraud and conspiracy charges.

The jury told reporters they were not even swayed by thoughts of the thousands of people who lost their jobs and life savings as a result of the energy company's collapse.

"Our verdict was based on fact not emotion," said Deborah Smith, the jury's foreperson, who works in human resources at an oil services company.

"The jurors came with a variety of life experiences but a mutually high level of endurance. "I think the balance we had on this jury was very effective. We got to know each other, respect each other and listen to each other," Smith said.

The testimony of Lay and Skilling did not strike them as credible, many jurors said.

"I wanted very, very badly to believe what they were saying," said Wendy Vaughn, who owns a roofing company. "There were places in their testimony where I felt their character was questioned."

Lay, in particular, seemed to have "a little bit of a chip on his shoulder," Vaughn said.

Wendy Vaughan, a business owner, said they were given "a puzzle with about 25,000 pieces dumped on the table." 

Doug Baggett, who works in Shell Oil's legal department, said he didn't think it mattered that the case was tried in Houston because the jury looked at the evidence and not preconceived community notions.

"I think we all felt like ping-pong balls," said Baggett about how one night he would go home thinking the defense had made a good point and the next he would head out thinking the prosecution scored.

Lay surprised many in the courtroom by his prickly exchanges with the prosecutor and even his own lawyer.

Another juror, elementary school principal Freddy Delgado, said he didn't buy Lay and Skilling's contention that they didn't know about accounting improprieties at Enron.

"I can't say I don't know what my teachers are doing," he said.

Even so, jurors said they still admired the two men who

built Enron into the seventh largest company in the US before it was forced into bankruptcy in 2001.

"Good men can make bad decisions," said Doug Baggett, the manager of a legal department.

Their verdict "doesn't take away from what they have done for our community," said Kathy Harrison, an elementary school teacher.

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