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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK
What do we know about the Enron jury?

By Guto Harri
BBC North America business correspondent

What do you call an angry gorilla with a sub-machine gun?

The answer, of course, is "Sir".

I remembered the joke as I listened to defence lawyers outside the Federal Court in Houston praising the jury who are now pondering the fate of Kenneth Lay and Geoffrey Skilling.

I've watched the jury during this trial of the two former Enron executives, who face multiple charges of fraud and conspiracy and could end up spending decades in prison.

I've observed their dress and demeanour during proceedings. I've sought to imagine what they make of it all. And I've watched them sneak out of the side entrance of the courthouse when the cameras are pointing at the lawyers out front.

I know there are four men and eight women. I can see that they vary in age. But beyond that, it's been hard to draw any conclusions.

Four-day week

I was therefore fascinated to be e-mailed by the Enron Task Force of the US Department of Justice with a list of what they all did before being selected for this showdown.

I must tell you that sitting there looking at the jury this morning, I felt a great sense of relief, a great sense of confidence, and a lot of hope.
Daniel Petrocelli
Lead Counsel for Jeffrey Skilling "

There are managers, sales people and teachers.

There's a retired engineer, an electrical designer, a dairy farmer, a ship inspector, and a dental hygienist.

I wonder who's been polishing teeth over the last four months while this particular hygienist has been tied up in the challenging task of cleaning up corporate America.

Some of the clients might have been seen on Fridays when the court has not been sitting.

That might explain why the jury has now opted to take Fridays off rather than seeking to finish the job as soon as possible.

The schedule they've agreed is still pretty demanding.

They'll sit from 8am until 4pm, from Monday to Thursday with an hour for lunch.

'Good' jury

What do they eat and drink? How do they get on? Do they find all this fascinating or annoying? Are they religious? Do they sympathise with the defendants? Do they despise them?

I don't know.

Neither does Kenneth Lay's lawyer, Michael Ramsay.

I would not buy a used car from the guy
Kenneth Lay's lawyer, Michael Ramsay

"Trying to read a jury at this stage is all voodoo. You can't," he said.

Nevertheless, he felt confident in declaring that this was "a very good jury".

On what basis, I wondered, before he elaborated?

"It was... a very hard working jury. They've been on time. They've taken a lot of good notes".

Five minutes earlier, the lead counsel for Jeffrey Skilling, Daniel Petrocelli, had done the same.

"I must tell you that sitting there looking at the jury this morning, I felt a great sense of relief, a great sense of confidence, and a lot of hope.

"We trust them. We have a lot of faith in them and we think they will do the right thing".

Jeffrey Skilling himself echoed the praise: "I feel the same way. I think the jury was attentive. They took a lot of notes. It's a complicated case. They've got a lot in front of them, but I think they got it. They understood what was going on and understood what the issues were".

Very nice

No-one knows how long this random group of amateurs will need to close one of the biggest white collar crime cases in American history, but once again, Mr Petrocelli, is making some flattering assumptions:

"I would expect that the jury is going to not hurry, not rush and talk this through very vigorously".

"My sense is that they will take their time, as has been apparent from the courtroom".

Back to the angry ape, and it's clear of course that only a lunatic would criticise a group of people who could put him or his client in jail if they took against him.

But the Texas sunshine seemed to have touched Mr Petrocelli at the close of proceedings.

Because when he was done with praising the jury he paid tribute to his opposite number on the prosecution.

"Mr Berkovitz did a very fine job of summarising the government's position. I think all the prosecutors are very capable and while I disagree with every bone in my body with their decision to indict and prosecute and try Jeff Skilling, they were capable people who did a fine job."

Not nice

Why be nice? Mr Ramsay wasn't:

"I would not buy a used car from the guy," he said, adding that the "very lengthy" indictment handed to the jury had been written by "someone with a serious nervous disorder".

Whatever the jury made of that and whatever they decided in the end, what's fascinating in this case is that they'll get a chance to explain their decision.

The judge has granted us special permission to interview them after the verdict.

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