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October 13, 2009

Jeffrey Skilling and Enron: Fire up the adjectives

The Supreme Court's decision Tuesday to hear former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling's appeal is great news for anyone interested in the swelling of a media frenzy and, perhaps, the scapegoating of a fallen man.

A "media frenzy," after all, is explicitly at the heart of Skilling's case. That's the very term deployed by Skilling's attorney, Daniel Petrocelli. Petrocelli claims that the prejudice against Skilling in Houston was so overwhelming that he could not possibly have received a fair trial. Consider the following characterizations laid out by in their petition:

"Skilling and (Ken) Lay were compared to Al Qaeda, Hitler, Satan, child molesters, rapists, embezzlers and terrorists and encouraged to 'go to jail'  and 'to hell.'...Polling showed that Houstonians routinely labeling Skilling a 'pig,' 'snake,' 'crook,' 'thief,' 'fraud,' 'asshole,' 'criminal,' 'bastard,' 'scoundrel,' 'liar,' 'weasel,' 'economic terrorist,' 'evil,' 'dirty,' 'deceitful,' dishonest,' 'greedy,' 'amoral,' 'devious,' 'lecherous,' 'despicable' and 'equivalent to an axe murderer.'"

Among other things.

Based on the responses to questionnaires, prosecutors agreed to strike 42 percent of the initial jury pool but insisted that a fair jury could still be selected from those remaining. Petrocelli and Skilling say: No way. Consider Juror No. 11, for instance, who told attorneys that "greed" was the cause of Enron's collapse.


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You can bet Petrocelli and Skilling are big tort reform guys.


Who thinks Skilling will get a fairer trial in front of Bush/Cheney cronies Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito???
I think Skilling is counting on sympathy from the right bloc of the Court. I can hear the phone call from Bush to Scalia, pleading for mercy for "Jeffy Boy."

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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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