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Enron jury instruction to allow lower burden of proof to convict Lay, Skilling

[JURIST] Former Enron [JURIST news archive] executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling [Houston Chronicle profiles] face an uphill battle after Judge Simeon T. Lake III agreed with prosecutors in the Enron trial Wednesday that jurors should be allowed to find both men guilty because of "deliberate ignorance" or the so-called "ostrich defense" [definition] with respect to conspiracy and fraud that contributed to Enron's 2001 collapse. The standard, increasingly applied in white-collar cases, offers a lower burden of proof to find the men guilty. Though experts expected the lower standard to be used against Lay, some were surprised that the jury also will receive the instruction for Skilling and believe it will give him a stronger appeal if convicted. Skilling's attorney addressed the issue of the "ostrich defense" by saying, "We have said all along this was not a case of hear no evil, see no evil. It was a case of there was no evil [on Skilling's part]." Lake is slated to instruct the jury on Monday after closing arguments.

Lay and Skilling have been charged [indictment, PDF] with multiple counts of fraud and criminal conspiracy for providing investors with false and misleading financial information from 1999 up until Enron filed bankruptcy in late 2001. The New York Times has more.

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