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Last Updated: Monday, 8 May 2006, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
A long, dull trial with fun moments

By Guto Harri
BBC North America business correspondent


"We're getting there folks".

So says a recent despatch from the charming spokesperson for the Enron task force.

Indeed, it is not over yet even though the company's founder, Ken Lay, has finished his time in the witness box.

Three months into this huge trial, some of us have become pretty hooked on Sam Martin's daily updates.

They began as a straightforward list of names and timings, but have evolved into a playful blog, imitating the Texan accent, reflecting on the performance of the key players and generally breaking the monotony of the case.

There have been wonderful moments in court - compelling insights into corporate culture and human nature.

But there have also been moments when the colour of the carpet is more interesting than the proceedings.

For the record, the carpet is an emerald green.

Ten dark wooden benches are parked on it, offering limited space for the press and public.

The defendants sit with their lawyers facing the jury.

There's no "dock".

Monotony and humour

All you can see from the ante room - where most reporters end up - is the witness box and the judge.

Enron founder Ken Lay

He has a slab of dark brown stone behind him to highlight his status, in what is otherwise a very functional space.

One member of the jury tends to wear a tie.

The others have settled into more casual gear.

Some of us only join them for the highlights.

A small band of hard core hacks have followed every twist and turn.

Bethany Mclean from Fortune Magazine is one of them, and it is starting to take its toll.

"I've gotten almost no sleep for the past few weeks," she says.

What has helped are "the unexpected jolts of much-needed humour in such a serious, weighty proceeding. You've got Petrocelli's jokes, Judge Lake's lines, even the occasional crack from a witness - and, of course, Sam's notes".

Lengthy process

Corporate fraud trials have a bad reputation for going on and on, but Judge Sim Lake has been constantly nudging all involved to speed things up.

Recently, the jury agreed to extend the day by an hour.

They now start at 8am, end at 4.30pm and cut half and hour off their lunch break.

Ms Martin says they took the decision "by unanimous bear hug".

She concludes on that basis that the closing statements should begin on 15 May, it could all be over by June.

Yet her hopes are not high.

"I'll believe that when I see it," she says.





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