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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Defense Makes Closing Speeches in Enron Trial

HOUSTON -- The U.S. government bore down on Enron as it would the Mafia, intimidating top lieutenants into pointing fingers at their bosses because someone had to pay for crimes that preceded the company's stunning collapse, said the lawyer for former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling.

"This was all manufactured after the fact," Daniel Petrocelli declared in an impassioned plea Tuesday for jurors to acquit his client of all 28 fraud and conspiracy counts against him. "Because it's Enron. After all, somebody has to pay. It's Enron."

In a searing closing argument, Petrocelli sought to drive home the defense theme that neither Skilling nor Enron founder Kenneth Lay perpetuated an overarching fraud at the company because none existed.

But prosecutors, unable to dig up tangible proof, found mouthpieces in a string of ex-Enron executives "robbed of their free will," who pleaded guilty to crimes they didn't commit, Petrocelli said. He said fear of lengthy prison terms and expensive legal battles drove those witnesses to say whatever the government wanted them to in testimony against Lay and Skilling.

"That's how they take down Mob kingpins," Petrocelli said.

Skilling told reporters outside the courthouse he was "staggered" by the government's power to rack up cooperating witnesses, using the specter of prosecution. But when asked if he was confident of acquittal, he said, "I'm very confident. I'm innocent."

Lay lawyer Bruce Collins, the first of several attorneys on his legal team to address jurors, said his client has accepted "full responsibility" for Enron's failure -- but Lay committed no crimes.

Collins said another judge presiding over numerous Enron-related lawsuits in another courtroom would decide whether Lay was liable for losses suffered by investors after the company sought bankruptcy protection in December 2001.

The current jury's job is to decide if he is guilty of the crimes alleged by the government.

Tuesday's lengthy closing arguments were the last opportunities for the defendants' lawyers to address the eight-woman, four-man panel. Prosecutors who made their closing arguments on Monday get one more chance in a rebuttal argument on Wednesday. Then, jurors will begin deliberations in the case that began Jan. 30.