Johnson, Ahrens Discuss Week Ahead: Lay Wraps Up

Enron founder and former chief executive Kenneth L. Lay spent last week on the witness stand and will likely wrap up early this week. He was preceded on the stand by fellow former chief Jeffrey K. Skilling.

Frank Ahrens sat down this afternoon with Post financial section reporter Carrie Johnson, who has been covering this trial since it began 14 weeks ago, to talk about the week ahead.

Q: Hi, Carrie. Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions. First, tell us what's in the immediate future. Lay is still under cross-examination from government prosecutor John Hueston. How long will that last and what comes after that this week?

A: Cross-examination is likely to conclude Monday, and after Lay faces some more questions from his own lawyer -- George "Mac" Secrest -- he'll be off the stand. Next up are several high-profile character witnesses, including two clergymen and Drayton McLane, the owner of the Houston Astros. Then will come some expert witnesses and a brief (two- or three-day) government rebuttal case.

Q: This trial is entering its 14th week. What's left and when does it look like the jury will get the case?

A: Judge Simeon T. Lake III has said he'd like closing arguments to begin around May 15, meaning the jury could get the case late that week if all goes as scheduled.

Q: Because I'm five floors below the courtroom watching the witness on television, I can't see the jury. How have they reacted to Lay, especially during his bouts of anger with Hueston?

A: The jury has not entirely warmed to Lay, to the surprise of many analysts who recalled Lay's charm during the height of his power. Jurors are for the most part paying close attention, particularly to the cross-examination.

Q: Lay's lead lawyer, Michael Ramsey, had to leave the case mid-trial for two operations. How is he recuperating and is there any chance he'll be be able to return in this trial? Do you know if Ramsey is coaching the defense team from the bench?

A: People close to Mike Ramsey say it is possible he will return on a reduced schedule, perhaps half-days. He is in contact with his colleagues on the defense team, many of whom have decades of experience.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the trial that Lay faces as soon as this one is over.

A: Shortly after the big case goes to the jury, Lay will face trial by himself on four bank fraud charges related to his use of personal loans. That brief proceeding will be decided by Judge Lake, not a jury.

Q: Thanks much, Carrie. See you in court.

By Frank Ahrens |  April 30, 2006; 6:14 PM ET  | Category:  Dispatches
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