By Scott Fitzgerald Staff Writer
Enid attorney Stephen Jones knows something about high-profile cases that can grip America.
Assigned by U.S. District Judge David Russell to represent Timothy McVeigh after the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklaho-ma City that claimed 168 lives, Jones knew he was up against some overwhelming odds regarding emotion and sentiment toward his client.
On Thursday after a federal jury convicted Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling in one of the biggest business scandals in U.S. history — Enron — Jones reflected on similarities of the case that loosely paralleled his experience defending McVeigh.
“It was a hard-fought case. It’s all been rather embarrassing to the city of Houston,” Jones said about publicity the Enron collapse generated in 2001 and the nationwide ire it drew when it was confirmed thousands had lost their jobs and life savings with the corporation’s collapse.
Jones thinks the defense strategy to have Skilling and Lay testify hurt more than helped.
“I think in Kenneth Lay’s case, he didn’t help himself on the stand,” Jones said, noting Lay probably turned jurors against him when he got hostile to questioning from prosecutor John Hueston.
“He lost it then. They jury gets resentful,” Jones said.
Jones said Skilling’s defense, led by famed civil lawyer Daniel Petrocelli, was more skilled in its strategy defending Skilling than was Lay’s lead attorney Michael Ramsey, who bowed out for much of the trial because of surgery.
“I know Daniel Petrocelli, and if he couldn’t get the job done then it was a case they couldn’t win,” Jones said.
And, it was tough odds for the defense to have the case tried in Houston.
“There was probably no one in that area who was not touched by the collapse of Enron,” Jones said.
A case like Enron’s clearly demonstrates a lawyer’s skill to persuade a jury, Jones said. In most criminal cases in which an act of violence is committed, a lawyer proves a crime was committed by producing evidence such as a body or weapon for example.
In a white collar crime, such as the Enron case, a lawyer has to persuade a jury that ultimately makes the decision whether the actions of the defendants constitute a crime or not, Jones said.