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Enron trial: the drama is back

The jury wakes...
 
 
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Things have been pretty dull in the Houston courtroom. So much so that the L.A. Times published a story last week entitled, "Scandal of Enron Trial Is a Lack of Theatrics."

The theatrics, thankfully, are back. Amidst all the legal minutia surrounding accounting practices comes Paula Rieker, former managing director of investor relations and corporate secretary for Ken Lay, who clarified the former chairman's crimes:

"Mr. Lay was using Enron as a damn ATM machine."

That, apparently, jarred jurors from their malaise and got them scribbling. A timeline shown in the courtroom revealed the correspondence between bad times at Enron, and Lay taking quick cash out of the company.

Lay's lawyer's response to this accusation?

Bruce Collins asked Rieker on cross-examination if that amount wasn't just a drop in the bucket when hundreds of millions of dollars were being called in by Enron creditors at the same time.

What's taking out a million here or there when you're really rich and other people are really, really rich, too?

Add that to the deranged defense that was used by Jeff Skilling's lawyer Daniel Petrocelli.

Petrocelli's pompous claim from opening arguments:

In 1999, [Skilling] had more money than he ever dreamed of having. So why would he do it? What is Jeff Skilling's motive?"

Matt Taibbi, who was in the courtroom during the statement, writes,

There was silence for a moment, and I kept waiting for some enraged citizen to leap out of the jury box, tackle Petrocelli, start pulling ligature out of his neck. The obscenity of the lawyer's argument defied description, but it also expressed the mind-set that led to Enron. In Skilling's world, being poor was the only real crime; at any rate, being poor made you more suspect than someone with $150 million.

Seems Lay and Skilling have found themselves lawyers who share in their sense of humility.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an editorial fellow at AlterNet.