The search began today for a jury that will spend the next couple of months trying to sort out whether Enron executives indulged in lies or mere hype in an attempt to make their Internet business look good.
Five men from the company’s once-promising Enron Broadband Systems are accused of 170 counts of conspiracy, wire and securities fraud, insider trading and money laundering.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore began questioning 95 potential jurors this morning and learned that one is a former Enron employee, one has a son-in-law who worked for Enron’s Internet division and one is married to an FBI agent who may have participated in a search of Enron offices.
Six members of the group said they could not put aside what they’ve read, seen on TV or been told about Enron to be able to render a fair verdict.
Judge Gilmore told the group that she’s never presided over a case where the media got it right.
“We only have one newspaper in Houston, and they don’t have to work too hard,” she said. “There’s a whole lot more story than anything you may have heard or read previously in this case.”
Three defendants are charged with insider trading, making between $35 million and $70 million each in the deals the government says were criminal and the defendants say were innocent trades.
The judge said the defendants need to know whether any potential jurors will be prejudiced because some of them sold Enron stock and made “a bunch of money.” The judge said the defendants want to know “as the kids say, whether you’re going to be hating on them.”