- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

HOUSTON (AP) — After 54 witnesses in more than three months, testimony ended yesterday in the federal fraud and conspiracy trial of Enron Corp. founder Kenneth L. Lay and former Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling.

The two defendants appeared upbeat shortly after the jury was released for the rest of the week.

“We feel real good about where we are right now,” the 64-year-old Mr. Lay said outside the Houston federal courthouse. “We think, in fact, in the end we’re going to prevail.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” Mr. Skilling, 52, told reporters.

The eight-woman, four-man jury will return May 15 to hear closing arguments over three days before deliberating the outcome of the premier criminal case to emerge from one of the biggest corporate scandals in U.S. history.

Both defendants testified as part of a 29-witness defense lineup. The government called 22 witnesses in its case, which rested March 28 — including eight ex-Enron executives who have pleaded guilty to crimes — and three more rebuttal witnesses yesterday.

After the defense teams rested their cases at midmorning, the government offered witnesses in rapid succession to reinforce prosecutors’ contention that Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling committed crimes at the company before it descended into bankruptcy in December 2001.

Skilling attorney Daniel Petrocelli said outside court that while the defense teams had eliminated some witnesses — as the government had before them — the defendants are confident that jurors will enter deliberations with an open mind and were ready for “vigorous debate and discussion.”

“We do think the jury has heard enough to make a decision,” Mr. Petrocelli said.

Mr. Lay’s lead attorney, Michael Ramsey, returned to court yesterday after being absent for about a month after having two stents implanted in arteries to relieve blockages.

“I’ve got a few pipes that have been blown out, but they’ve been patched,” Mr. Ramsey said, noting that he will help present the Lay defemse team’s closing argument. “We’re glad this case is over with. It’s time to get to the jury.”

Prosecutors declined to comment, as is customary in high-profile cases.

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