As noted yesterday, the Enron Task Force refused Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling’s request to have the prosecution recommend to U.S. District Judge Sim Lake that half-a-dozen former high-level Enron executives who have declined to testify during the trial on Fifth Amendment grounds be granted immunity from having their testimony used against them in a subsequent prosecution.
Those witnesses — several of whom have been mentioned prominently in testimony during the trial — would likely provide exculpatory testimony for Lay and Skilling if they were to testify.
The Lay-Skilling defense team limited their immunity request to those six witnesses even though the Task Force fingered the unprecedented number of the Task Force identified over 100 former Enron executives as unindicted co-conspirators for the transparent purpose of preventing the jury from hearing the full story of what happened at Enron.
Now, according to this Mary Flood/Houston Chronicle article, the Task Force is requesting that Judge Lake go even further and instruct the Lay-Skilling defense team not to inform the jury during closing arguments of the Task Force’s decision not to allow the jury to hear all the witnesses with relevant testimony about the charges against Lay and Skilling.
In short, the Task Force’s position is “we don’t want the jury to hear all the relevant evidence, but we also don’t want the other side telling the jury that we don’t want them to hear all the relevant evidence.”
In the meantime, you can bet that the Task Force will tell the jury during closing argument that the testimony of the dozen or so former Enron executives who testified against Lay and Skilling under plea deals with the Task Force is pervasive evidence of Lay and Skilling’s guilt.
The destroyed lives, careers and economic wealth that lies in the wake of the Task Force’s previous Enron-related prosecutions is a foreboding legacy of this abominable Task Force tactic that ensures that juries will never hear exculpatory testimony for the defense.
During those earlier trials — the Arthur Anderson case, the Nigerian Barge case and the Enron Broadband case — the Task Force identified dozens of former Enron executives as either targets of the Enron criminal investigation or unindicted co-conspirators of the defendants. As a result, the Task Force effectively prevented many witnesses with exculpatory testimony for the defendants in those cases from testifying because of the threat that the witnesses’ waiver of their Fifth Amendment privilege would likely lead to criminal charges against them if they chose to testify contrary to the Task Force’s position in those cases.
The huge impact of this Task Force tactic was brought into full focus during the first trial of the Enron Broadband case last year. That trial initially appeared to be a sure-thing for the prosecution, but the Task Force’s case unraveled quickly as witnesses Lawrence Ciscon and Beth Stier both testified to a riveted jury about the Task Force’s threats of prosecution against them if they provided exculpatory testimony on behalf of the former Enron executives on trial in that case. That trial ended in a disastrous mix of acquittals and jury deadlock on the Task Force’s charges.
Arthur Andersen and the defendants in the Nigerian Barge trial were not so fortunate. In Andersen, the Task Force used the tactic in maliciously destroying a fine American company that had contributed to orderly commerce and the preservation of wealth in the U.S. for over eight decades. Likewise, in the Nigerian Barge case, dozens of witnesses from Enron and Merrill Lynch with exculpatory testimony for the defendants declined to testify because of the threat to Task Force retribution. The result was an an unspeakable injustice for the four Merrill Lynch executives convicted in that case.
Thus, our “Justice” Department is not really about “justice” at all. Rather than having a jury fairly evaluate all evidence relating to its charges against unpopular defendants or allowing defendants access to funds necessary to defend themselves effectively, our Justice Department is much more interested in indulging public bias against those defendants.
Indeed, that bias is so pervasive with regard to the Lay-Skilling case that the Houston Chronicle runs vile columns and blog posts on almost a daily basis embracing the prosecution’s calls for conviction of the defendants without so much as a mention — much less meaningful analysis — of the serious implications to justice and the rule of law arising from the government effectively preventing witnesses with exculpatory testimony for the defense from testifying in the case.
Something is seriously wrong with the administration of justice in America when the judiciary and the media blithely accept the government preventing a jury from hearing favorable testimony for defendants who are facing the overwhelming governmental power to imprison them for most of the rest of their lives.