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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Enron Jury Chosen in a Single Day

HOUSTON -- In a single day, the federal judge presiding over the Enron trial defied skeptics by selecting a 12-person jury to decide whether Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief executives, conspired to defraud investors in the biggest business collapse in history.

Despite expressing serious reservations about Judge Simeon Lake's plans to make final jury selections in a day, defense lawyers and Lay himself said afterward that they were satisfied with the jury of eight women and four men. The 12 were selected out of a final pool of nearly 100 prospects.

"They're a well-educated jury, better educated than most," Michael Ramsey, Lay's lead lawyer, said.

The jurors range in age from 24 to 66 -- six have college degrees and of those, two also have master's degrees. Three work in the oil and gas industry, and a few are in accounting. Three are in education, and two are self-employed. Two are Hispanic and one is Indian; the rest are white.

"We had some issues, but we are very pleased with the jury that we have," said Daniel Petrocelli, Skilling's lead lawyer. "They know this is a court of law, not a court of public opinion."

Lay, speaking to a throng of news media gathered behind a metal barricade, said: "We are pleased with the outcome. My fate and Mr. Skilling's are in their hands."

Lay arrived early Monday, walking briskly past a phalanx of cameras, tightly clutching the hand of his wife, Linda, and looking downward. When a journalist yelled from the crowd, asking if this trial would be "a chance to clear your name," he called back, "It certainly is."

Inside the courtroom, Lay appeared tired and kept mostly to himself on one end of a table, tapping a pen and flipping through a yellow legal pad, talking little with his lawyers.

The rapid jury selection set the stage for the much-anticipated trial of Enron's former top brass to begin Tuesday with opening statements. The trial of Skilling and Lay, the two men most directly responsible for Enron's meteoric rise from a stodgy pipeline company into an energy-trading powerhouse, is the culmination of four years of investigation by the government's Enron Task Force into the company's spectacular bankruptcy filing in December 2001.

Judge Lake held true to his promise, made last week, that he would strive to seat a jury in one day. He made it clear to the full panel of 96 prospective jurors gathered in the morning that the court was "not looking for people that want to punish anyone or seek vengeance" against Enron for the company's failure.