Lay Feeling the "Spear of Government"?

Michael Ramsey sounds like Houston when he talks in court and clearly part of the defense strategy on behalf of his client, Ken Lay, is to try to reconnect the city with the man who once was its symbol and now is its shame. So when the ailing Ramsey hauled himself out of his chair Tuesday to deliver a thundering closing argument on behalf of the former Enron Chairman, you just knew the jury of eight women and four men at this federal fraud and conspiracy trial were going to hear fire and brimstone, Texas-style. And they did.

"When the spear of government stops to touch living flesh," Ramsey told jurors, "we are proud of our liberty... There may be a court in America that bends to political pressure but it's not this court. There may come a day when an American jury yields to a media mob but it's not this jury.... You speak for the country when you render a verdict and you render a true verdict. And when it's time to vote, you will vote not guilty, not guilty, not guilty." You can just see Andy Griffith or Jack Lemmon or for that matter Sen. Robert Byrd mouthing the words on the big screen.

It's clear from the trial that Ramsey has a better connection with jurors than either the glitzy Daniel Petrocelli, who represents former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, or any of the prosecutors, whom another Lay attorney, Chip Lewis, reminded jurors Tuesday are not from Houston. It's a home-town, home-team thing and Ramsey and Lay are hoping that there is still some residual pride in his accomplishment to make the difference during deliberations later this week.

Lay's attorneys know that jurors must feel some pressure to convict the Enron chiefs on behalf of all their neighbors and and friends whose lives and incomes and savings were destroyed when the huge company imploded. Lay's attorneys also know that this is a case about civic reputation; about how Houstonians want the world to remember how they handled this case. Ramsey's dramatic argument went straight to those points. Whether jurors still were listening is anyone's guess.

By  |  May 16, 2006; 10:00 PM ET
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It has been (thus far) some right purty talkin'!

I do hate that this case is in no way, shape, or form about justice. The fact that LOTS of folks exercised poor judgment in what was (eventually, in many ways) a Ponzi scheme is no longer in question. That it grew larger than any of the individual participant's control is also largely already answered. That there's no available pool of funds available to recompense those who lost investments, jobs, and retirement income is without question.

The essential facts of this case had been layed out fairly accurately in various media outlets long before the trial began. Since the law frowns upon the unproductive (but briefly emotionally satisfying) outlet of rioting, storming, looting & lynching, we're down to the "talk it out, and minimize the aftermath" stage.

Posted by: Bob S. | May 17, 2006 01:45 AM

I hate that I've been compelled to point this out, but a certain proofreader over my shoulder says that I need to tell you that "case that had been 'layed' out" (above) was a pun. Yes, I know that 'laid out' is more correct in other usage. Not in this story!

Posted by: Bob S. | May 17, 2006 01:51 AM

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