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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 04:11 GMT 05:11 UK
Real buzz as Enron high-fliers crash-land

By Guto Harri
BBC North America business correspondent

Kenneth Lay outside court
Kenneth Lay said he believed good would come out of his predicament

Rich powerful men who are friends with US presidents do not often go to jail.

If George Bush called you "Kenny Boy" and just about everyone else you had met in your adult life called you "Sir", you would obviously be shocked and a little outraged at the thought of being locked up.

Kenneth Lay used to have an overdraft facility of $40m (21m). He lived near the top of an exclusive condominium where there were staff to park the car and bring in the shopping.

The son of a preacher who goes to church every Sunday, he is also convinced that God is behind him.

"I firmly believe I'm innocent of the charges against me," he said after the verdict.

"We believe that God in fact is in control, and indeed he does work all things for good for those who love the Lord."

It will be their last free summer for a long time which is indeed a very sobering thought for every boardroom
Amanda Perry, juror
Understandably therefore, a small crowd gathered outside Houston's federal court as word got out that there was a verdict.

And there was a real buzz when it emerged that both Lay and his former chief executive, Jeffrey Skilling, were guilty.

"I just wanted to see a little history in the making," said a student of Spanish and psychology at Houston university. "I want to see justice prevail."

Her friend, who studied law, believed he was witnessing something very profound and beautiful.

"I love justice," said Eduardo Martinez. "This is something that feels so good for me."

People gather outside court for the verdict in the Enron case
There was a sense of history in the making at the courtroom
It seemed odd to have armed and mounted police around when the criminals were suited, polite and eager to talk. But this is Texas and it was time for a spectacle. Other cops on bicycles added to the sense of theatre.

One block away, audiences have been enjoying a production of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution - a reminder how gripping a courtroom drama can be, even when the details are complicated.

The Enron case was tedious at times but it involved real men who are known to everyone in this town. They had also, at one time, seduced corporate America, so the stakes were high.

The youngest juror, Amanda Perry, admitted there had been times when the proceedings had dragged. "I think some days we wished it would have moved a little quicker," she said.

But she was full of praise for the prosecution.

"Looking back they did an excellent job," she said, "so that we could understand Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling will have to make the most of this summer.

"Enjoying their homes, families and golf. It will be their last free summer for a long time which is indeed a very sobering thought for every boardroom."

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