Enron CEO Blames Media for Conviction, Gets Raked Over Coals Once Again

Sentenced to 24 years for a multibillion dollar fraud, Jeffrey Skilling will make his appeal before the Supreme Court

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Was the media too rough on Jeffrey Skilling? Enron's infamous ex-CEO was widely portrayed as a cunning, ruthless corporate crook for presiding over the $50 billion immolation of the Texas energy-trading firm. But now he will make his case before the Supreme Court and attempt to overturn his conviction, arguing that media coverage made the jury too jaundiced before his trial.

What's he getting this time? As though to prove that the media's in no hurry to forgive, coverage of Skilling is dwelling on his image as a rapacious corporate buccaneer. Others suggest that he may have a point, and speculate about how future cases could be affected if his conviction were overturned.

  • A Dangerous Precedent, says Columbia Law School professor John Coffee in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. If the court finds that Houston jurors were too prejudiced, it will set a precedent with ramifications for many cases. "'The area of venue is something the Supreme Court hasn't touched for a long, long time...Once you say that there might be a constitutional right to get change of venue because of notoriety,' then a number of people might make such a claim."
  • A Symbol of Corporate Corruption, Sam Gustin writes at Daily Finance. He revisits the conventional image of Skilling and his colleagues as "poster children for corporate misbehavior." Gustin reminds readers that the executives "concealed the company's massive fraud while enriching themselves and leading lavish lifestyles. They came to represent a kind of gun-slinging, Texas bravado gone very wrong." Like John Coffee, he too is surprised at Skilling's case: "Incredibly, Skilling's lawyers argue that because Enron's collapse caused financial hardship for so many people in Houston, Skilling, who helped cause and conceal Enron's misdeeds, could not receive a fair trial there."
  • An Entertaining Backlash If He Goes Free, writes DougJ in a facetious post at political blog Balloon Juice. "Obviously, I think Skilling belongs in jail. But I really would enjoy reading all the crazy shit the media would come up with if he walks. And, also, to be honest, I think there's too much of an attitude of 'the Enron guys got nailed, so it means our system is fine now' out there."
  • Media Frenzy Proves the Point, says Mike Doyle, a law blogger for McClatchy. "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.'..."
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